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A Cheap Pair Of Curtains & A Harvest

Yet again it has been wet and miserable this week……the slugs are having a party in my kitchen garden!

But as I write my blog today the sun is shining beautifully, so I have taken advantage of this and hung out two loads of washing.  My daughters think I am mad when I sit watching my washing blowing in the wind …… watching it always makes me feel so ‘grounded’ as though life is somehow ok when my washing is out ….. daft I know.

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The last lot of laundry liquid that I made seems to have lasted me ages, but soon I will have to make some more.

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As it’s been wet this week I spent a bit of time in my greenhouse tying up my tomatoes and removing any side shoots.

I also nipped off the tops of my plants as they have all reached the roof of my greenhouse.  I then removed a few of their lower leaves so the air could circulate and the sun can get to the tomatoes to ripen them.

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I also tied my cucumbers to new string supports that I tied to my roof….hopefully they will grow along the string and produce even more cucumbers (you can just about see the string and cucumbers growing in the left corner in the photo below):

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I then put two plastic bottles that I had cut in half, into the compost next to the cucumber plants.  Cucumbers easily die when the compost around the stem is too wet (stem rot) and as it has been damp in the greenhouse (as we haven’t had much sun) I have been concerned that my cucumbers would sucumb to this.  When I now water, the water bottles allow the water to drain to the roots of the plants instead of sitting on the surface of the compost:

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I also continued to tie up the melon plants I have been growing in the greenhouse as well:

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So the greenhouse looks a lot neater now and I am so looking forward to the first tomatoes ripening.

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This weeks harvest:

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I started the week by picking my last spring cabbage.  The cabbage looked lovely on the outside but there was a fair bit of slug damage inside, however we had a meal from it and I managed to make some coleslaw with the remainder so it wasn’t that bad:

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I will be planting my curly kale next week in the space that is left in my brassica bed.

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This week the strawberries have been ripening well and they taste so lovely:

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 Most of the strawberries didn’t last more than five minutes before we all ate them.  However a few did make it into strawberry and chocolate pancakes that my daughters made….

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I have also been picking broadbeans (a variety called aquadulce) that I sowed in January:

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Normally I ‘pinch off’ the top three or four inches off each plant as soon as the beans start to form, as usually this is when I always see blackfly on the plants (blackfly love the soft growth at the top).  This year I left the plants as there really was no sign of blackfly and still there is no sign and the plants look so healthy….this is very unusual:

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My courgette plant has produced one more courgette……hopefully if the weather warms up I will get more.  However the courgette was quickly used in an omelette with the broadbeans and it was really tasty:

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The other squashes in my garden (patty pans and pumpkins) are also sulking in the wet weather too, however the butternut squash that I planted in a big pot is doing great and I have one butternut squash that is growing bigger each day:

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I also pulled up a few small onions this week to use as spring onions.  When I planted my onions out I spaced them very closely so I could pull them up and eat the thinnings, while the remainder could continue to grow to full size:

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And this week the first gooseberries were ready to pick.  I laughed at my eldest daughter when she ate one, as she said they were so sour……..she used to eat gooseberries like sweets and obviously her taste has changed as she has got older…..this happened to me as I grew older too.

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As it’s the beginning of July now, I decided to pull a few more stalks of rhubarb up.  I won’t pull any more stalks up this year now, so the plants can build their energy up again ready for next year:

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And finally this week in the garden I noticed my second early potatoes were starting to flower, so I decided to have a root around to see what I could find and I found these:

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These are a variety called ‘Marfona’ and my goodness they were delicious….but we always love the first potatoes of the year in our house!

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So all in all it was a good week for harvesting produce from my kitchen garden and homegrown fruit and vegetables always taste better than shop bought fruit and vegetables.

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This week in the home:

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I don’t know if you remember, but back in August / September last year my dad was throwing out two garden chairs and I asked him if I could have them as there wasn’t much wrong with them.

  I decided to go to a car boot sale to look for some cheap curtain material to cover the seat pads as they had marks on them.  I found some curtains for £3 which I was very pleased with:

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For one reason or another I didn’t get around to re-covering the seat pads and at Christmas I even used one of the curtains to cover a plastic box, so I could stand the Christmas tree on it:

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This week I finally decided to get the material out again and I realised that the curtains would actually fit across the bay window in our front room and the colour also matched the room too (though the curtains were far too long so they would need altering).  I have been looking for a pair of cheap curtains for this room since ever since I decorated it last summer, as our existing curtains were fifteen years old and VERY faded in places.

At the bottom of the ‘car boot’ curtains was some white paint, which is why they sold them so cheaply.  So I decided to get my sewing machine out and have a go at altering them.  The curtains were lined so I had to unpick the linning first and alter this as well as the curtain material:

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I have got to be honested, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I made it up as I went along….but it worked!

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I also made a couple of tie backs with the material that I had cut off (making sure I didn’t use the bit that had paint on) and I’m really pleased with these too:

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So for £4.55 (£3 for the curtains and £1.55 for the thread) we now have a nearly new pair of good quality, lined curtains that will hopefully last quite a few years and I did this with just a few basic sewing skill.

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So nearly everything in the room is second hand – the TV, the TV cabinet, the nest of tables, the lamps, the pictures, the cabinet, the settee and now the curtains.  It just goes to show that you don’t have to spend lots of money to furnish a room nicely.  Our room my not be everyones cup of tea, but it’s homely and we love it ……though we are still saving up for a new carpet to finish the room off!

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

Have a great week!

XX

Radish In Guttering & Sweet Potato Wedges Recipe

Last week the weather was so hot and my soil was bone dry.  The greenhouse reached temperatures of 45 degrees celcius and I had to quickly put up some greenhouse shading….this week it has rained nearly everyday and there has been floods in the County…what a difference in just one week!

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Up until the last few years June was always sunny and warm, but in recent years we have had record rainfalls recorded in June and July…..is this climate change or just the seasons changing?

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week in the garden I picked our first strawberry of the year….and it was delicious (though I did have to share it with my daughters):

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I also picked our first courgette this morning….we always get excited when I pick the first courgette of the year (even though we know that soon we will be groaning when they are coming thick and fast in a few weeks time).

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I have one last spring cabbage to pick and eat this week….the cabbages have been in the ground since last year so I always find it quite sad when I pick the last one, however next week I will be planting my curly kale in this area:

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Also I will now start to use some of the onions that I am growing….I planted them close together so I could use some of them as spring onions.  The onions that I leave will then develop into full sized onions:

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The rest of the garden is growing well and my broad beans are nearly ready to pick as well:

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My dwarf pea plants are ladened with pea pods ready to fatten up…

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And I have currants, gooseberries, blueberries  and a few plums growing (I can’t wait to taste these when they are ready)…..

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My cherry tomatoes are flowering well in my hanging baskets….so hopefully I will soon have some tiny tomatoes growing.  As soon as I see mini tomatoes growing on my plants I start to feed them once a week with a high potash feed (e.g comfrey which is perfect for tomatoes):

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I have my first flower on one of my potato plants, however I didn’t get around to earthing my potatoes up this year and I think it is too late now as I can hardly see the soil around them.  It will be interesting to see how much my yield is affected….my old friend at my old allotment site never earthed her potatoes up and she said it never affected her yield….we will see.

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The greenhouse is doing well too.  I have cucumbers and tomatoes growing and I spotted my first peppers growing too this week:

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Over the last week in the garden I planted my sweetcorn and pumpkins.  I sowed the sweetcorn in April in newspaper pots and they have grown well, though I am a little late planting them out.  In the space where I needed to plant my sweetcorn was my ‘lollo rossa’ lettuce, which has been providing us with an outstanding amount of cut and come again salad leaves this year and I just couldn’t bring myself to pull them up until now.

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I planted the sweetcorn and then I planted three pumpkin plants in between them.  The pumpkins will hopefully produce small, palm sized fruit that I can roast, but as I have never grown this variety before I am not sure how big the foliage will grow….so it’s a bit of a trial:

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I have also planted some leeks this week, but unfortunately I did have to buy them from my local nursery as I had somehow missed watering mine when the weather was really hot and managed to kill my lovely seedlings – which I was gutted about!…but at least it proves I’m human.

As normal I trimmed the roots to make them easier to plant and then pushed each leek seedling into a four inch deep hole made with my dibber and then I just watered the hole….don’t worry if you can still see the roots as the soil will fill around the leeks as they grow helping to blanch the stems:

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I then covered them with environmesh as last year I lost a lot of leeks to the allium leaf miner:

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Two weeks ago I sowed some more radish.  I decided to have a go at planting them in a piece of guttering as I have read this works well.  I didn’t want the slugs to eat them so I made a ‘moat’ around the guttering in the hope the slugs won’t swim (this was a tip I learnt at the ECO House Garden Forum a few years ago before the ECO house shut)….

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…..And this week the seeds have emerged and so far there has been no slug damage:

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I have also continued to sow coriander, for my windowsill,  spring onions and lettuce over the last couple of weeks and I have been surprised at how quickly they have germinated:

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And finally this week in the garden I have finished planting my remaining bedding plants (I couldn’t plant them before in this area as my wall flowers were still flowering):

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Hopefully they will grow well now and flower soon.

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This week in the home:

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This week I decided to give the basil on my windowsill a good haircut as it was getting too big.  I placed all the leaves in a paperbag and hung them in a warm place to dry.  In a few weeks I will pass the dried leaves through a seive to remove any stalks and put the dried leaves in a jar to use over the winter:

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This week I also started some elderflower champagne…. as there are plenty of elderflowers around on our local park.  I have never made it before and I chose to use a recipe they gave on ‘River Cottage Bites‘.  I won’t tell you how I made it yet as I want to make sure it works…..but it smells wonderful at the moment.

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Over the week I have also been making large batches of food to freeze.  I made pasta / pizza sauces and spaghetti bolognaises and a big pot of soup to freeze in portions:

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I have also been trying very hard to use the herbs that I have been growing….

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I have used them in meals such as omelettes etc. and sprinkled them over our roasted vegetables before I cook them.  I have also been chopping a bit of mint to sprinkle over our vegetables when I serve them.

  It is so nice to have fresh herbs to use, especially as the herbs I grew last year in a different place were a disaster due to our local squirrel population digging them up every five minutes at the end of my garden!

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This week I made some sweet potato wedges and they were really nice.  I made them in exactly the same way as I make normal potato wedges, except I only cooked them for 30 minutes on Gas 6 / 200C.

(The normal potato wedges recipe I used can be found here).

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I cooked the sweet potato wedges to accompany a homemade pizza, which I served with homemade coldslaw and salad.  My sister gave me the idea of making the base with half strong wholewheat flour and half strong white flour to make it a bit healthier and she was right as it turned out really, really nice.

I have written the recipe I used in my breadmaker below…..it makes two large pizza’s so I froze half of the dough for another time.

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Wholemeal Pizza Dough Recipe

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300mls water

2 tablespoons Olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

340g strong white flour

290g strong wholemeal flour (plus some for rolling out)

2 teaspoons yeast

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Put all the ingredients into your breadmaker and put it on a ‘pizza dough’ setting:

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Split the dough in half and put half in your freezer for another day:

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Roll out the dough and and place it in a greased pizza pan:

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Leave to rise for 30 mins in a warm place with a clean tea towel over it.

Spread a pizza sauce over the base.  You can find my pizza sauce recipe here (it’s the same recipe as pasta sauce).

Top the pizza sauce with whatever topping you choose and then mozzerella cheese, either grated or sliced.

Sprinkle with basil and organo to give it an italian pizza taste and cook for 14 minutes on gas mark 6 / 400F / 204C.

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Enjoy!!

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Well that’s it for today.

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

Have a great weekend!

XXX

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 ‘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!

 

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.

Catching Up & An Apple Cake Tray Bake Recipe

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 November’ can be found here.

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

I hope it helps someone out there.

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This week I have started to get back to normal after decorating my daughter’s bedroom a couple of weeks ago.  It has felt nice making bread and cakes again:

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I also caught up with a few jobs I have been putting off.

  I started by flushing my plug holes with bi-carb and vinegar to ensue they don’t start to block up.  It’s great for removing food, hair and soap scum from your pipes.  It’s very simple to do:

I put one tablespoon of bi-carb in the plug hole and then I added three tablespoons of white distilled vinegar and left it for a few minutes to fizz away:

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I then flushed it all down with boiling hot water:

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I also finally brought in the tomatoes that were sitting in my greenhouse ripening.  I put them there at the beginning of October and they have ripened well:

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I left a few on my kitchen window sill to continue to ripen and I have left some out for sandwiches and salads,

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but I have also managed to make some more passatta to freeze:

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In my garden this week I started to use another batch of lettuces that I have been growing under environmesh….I pick the outside leaves of the lettuces so they continue to grow.  They should be fine growing outside under the environmesh for some time yet, before the harsh winter weather comes:

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One thing I noticed in my garden is I have somehow managed to grow a clematis.  I do remember that a clemastis used to scramble through the large photinia bush I used to have in the corner, but I assumed this was killed off when I cleared the area at the beginning of the year.

When I first saw it growing in the summer I twisted the growth around my trellis as I really wasn’t sure what it was (though I did suspect it looked like a clematis) and this week it has begun to flower….better late than never:

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I shall leave the plant where it is as it obviously wants to be there and I will prune it in February.

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I also finally bottled up the wine I made a few weeks ago.  I had a little taste and it is lovely already, but hopefully as it matures it will get even better.  These bottles will be great in my Christmas hampers:

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My lovely sister dropped in this week with some apples from the tree in her garden, as she has had a bumper crop:

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I sorted the apples and I wrapped up those without blemishes in newspaper and placed them in a cool, dark place to store them through the winter:

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I then decided to juice the remaining apples, so I started by washing the apples and then removing all the bad bits:

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Unfortunately there were rather a lot of bad bits and when I chopped the apples in half I found that loads of them were bad in the middle.  I’m not sure if they are bad due to ‘codling moth’ or wether it is the result of ‘mouldy core rot’:

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However, I did get enough good apples to do a little bit of juicing:

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It was a shame about the rotten apples but the juice we did get was absolutely delicious:

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My sister also gave me a few bramley apples, so I made an Apple Cake traybake:

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An Apple Cake Traybake Recipe:

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500g Bramley apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced (leave in water to stop them going brown)

350g self raising flour

280g caster sugar

225g soft margarine or butter

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

2 – 3 tbsp demerara sugar to sprinkle over the top.

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Preheat your oven to 180C / gas 4 / 350F and line a baking tray with greased, greaseproof paper.

Put the margarine, caster sugar, eggs and vanilla into a bowl and then seive the flour and baking powder into the bowl. 

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Mix until all the ingredients are combined and then add a little bit of water to the mixture if it doesn’t drop off the spoon easily.

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Spread half of the mixture into the lined baking tray and then arrange half of the apples over the mixture.

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Put the rest of the cake mixture on top of the apples and then arrange the remaining apples again on top

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Sprinkle the apples with demerara sugar

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Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Ensure the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer….it is cooked when the skewer comes out clean.

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Leave to cool for ten minutes and then slice.

Serve hot or cold on it’s own or with cream or ice cream.

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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 good week!

 

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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