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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

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A Busy Week In The Garden

Well I can’t start today without mentioning the wonderful celebrations that went on in Leicester on Monday evening at ‘Leicester City’s Victory parade’.  I watched it all on the TV, but Mr Thrift was lucky enough to enjoy the parade at Victoria Park with my sisters and brother-in-laws, together with approximately 220,000 other people….this was absolutely amazing as Leicester City’s population is only 330,000!

Mr Thrift said the atmosphere was wonderful and it was an evening that he will always remember.  This event really did bring the city together.

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This Week In The Garden:

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The nights have been cold this week in the garden so I have made sure that my tender plants have been under cover at night.  I will continue to keep a close eye on the weather forecast for now.

However, as the end of May is near I decided to plant a few things making sure they have adequate protection just in case there are still cold nights to come.

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I started by planting out the runner beans I sowed three weeks ago in newspaper pots (they grow so quickly).  I put up some bean poles for them to climb up and then planted the beans.  I also planted some nasturtiums that I sowed two or three weeks ago from seed around the beans, as these attract the blackfly away from the beans – also if there are no blackfly around, I add the leaves to salads as they have a lovely mild peppery taste.

I then put some glass around the plants to give a bit of protection:

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I then planted out my outdoor cucumbers which are a variety called ‘Burpless tasty green’ which I have been growing for a number of years. Over the years I have had fantastic crops of outdoor cucumbers in warm summers, but I have also had one or two years where the plants just sat and sulked in the cold, wet conditions…..I’m keeping my fingers crossed the weather is good for this years crop!

I support the cucumbers by tying them to canes as they grow….but for now I have given them some protection from the cold and slugs by covering them with old pop bottles until they are established:

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I have also used pop bottles to cover the parsley I planted this week, as these plants are still small.  I again grew the parsley in newspaper pots, as this stops any root disturbance to the plant and the newspaper just decomposes in the soil.

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This week I also ‘squeezed’ in some beetroot into my plot (again sown in newspaper pots and covered in bottles for protection until they are established) ….

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I then planted my red cabbages which again I had grown from seed.  I made sure that I used my foot to firm around each plant as brassicas grow best in firm soil and then I put a home made cabbage collar around each plant to stop cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of the plants.

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I then planted my swedes in an area next to my cabbages so I could put a net over the whole lot to stop the birds, as they LOVE to eat brassica leaves!

Just before I put the net over the brassicas I sowed a ‘catch crop’ of radish between the cabbages to make use of every spare piece of ground:

“A ‘Catch Crop’ is a crop that reaches maturity in a relatively short time, which makes use of the ground in between crops until they are established”

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I also planted some spring onions that I grew from seed in a small area under my environmesh that was not being used, next to my garlic:

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And I planted some khol rabi under my net in a space next to my Spring cabbage:

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As my kitchen garden is small, I am determined to grow as much as possible in every spare bit of ground I can find….however I also want to make the area look attactive with flowers for me and for the beneficial insects.  These insects will in turn pollinate my crops and eat the pests that visit my garden.

So this week I planted some Calendula that I grew from seed:

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Calendula is a hardy annual that I grew for years at my allotment and I also grew some last year in my new kitchen garden too.

My Calendula at my allotment

‘Calendula Alley’ at my allotment

Hoverflies, bees and butterflies all love the Calendula flowers and as an extra bonus, the petals are edible and look really pretty scattered into salads….so I think it’s always good to try and squeeze some of them into a vegetable garden somewhere:

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This week my mangetout was ready to plant out.  I had sown it in guttering a couple of weeks ago and kept it in my mini-greenhouse until it had germinated, as I think I get a far better rate of seed germination this way:

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I decided to put the mangetout in my new planter as my polyanthus and cowslips had just about finished flowering.  I don’t know if you remember but I bought all fourteen plants from my local nursery in the middle of April for just 40p each…..and they have flowered continuously since then, so this was a real bargain:

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I moved each plant to a different place in the garden to flower again another year.  I then added a bit more compost and a handful of blood, fish and bone to the planter and then I planted the mangetout …. hopefully it will grow up the trellis at the back.

I will add more plants to the planter another day:

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Another job I did this week was to ‘thin’ my leeks once again as there seemed to be so many growing in the tray.  Hopefully they will grow stronger now there are less of them….I must remember not to sow them so thickly next year!

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 I also ‘thinned’ my carrot seedlings which I am keeping in my greenhouse.  Normally it is best to ‘thin out’ carrot seedlings in the evenings to help prevent carrot rootfly, however as I thinned them out in the greenhouse then they will hopefully be ok.

I sowed these seeds far too thickly as the seed packet was a few years old and I thought most of them wouldn’t germinate….I was very wrong!

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Back in March I sowed some ‘cut and come again’ lettuce in my greenhouse and we have had a good supply of salad leaves over the last month or so. However the supply of leaves was just about finished and so I decided it was time to pull them up together with the remaining radish that I had sown around the edge of the salad leaves.

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This made room for me to plant my remaining indoor tomatoes.  As you can see from roots in the photo below, the tomatoes were ready to be planted:

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I also planted a couple of french marigolds next to the tomatoes as they are said to repel aphids and they look pretty too.

My greenhouse seems to be growing well at the moment and this week I noticed I have my first little cucumber growing.  I am being very careful not to overwater the cucumber plants as they don’t like to sit in wet compost.

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I am still continually tying my cucumbers and tomatoes to their supports as they grow and I am removing side shoots from the tomatoes when I spot them.

I also had room to plant some lettuces in my greenhouse that I have been growing from seed….I am trying very hard this year to have a continuous supply of salads (as we eat such a lot):

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Around the garden this week I have been weeding as we had some nice dry days at the beginning of the week.  Unfortunately I have been finding a lot of bindweed growing in a particular bed so I have been digging out as much of it as possible.  Provided I keep removing the top of the bindweed after it emerges out of the soil, it will eventually exhaust itself and die – but this takes a long time.

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Improving our lawn area:

Finally this week I turned my attention to our lawn.  After using a ‘log roll’ a couple of weeks ago against our fence I found had a tiny bit of it spare, so I cut it in half with a saw and fitted it neatly around our bay tree:

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I was very pleased with the results.

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I then decided to take off an inch of our lawn at the end, to make it easier to mow and keep tidy:

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While I was doing this I found a ‘leather jacket’ so I took a photo to show you….

“Leatherjackets are the larvea of craneflies (daddy long-legs) that live in the soil.  They can be very damaging to lawns and can eat the roots and stem bases of small flower and vegetable plants.  There are usually more around after a wet autumn”

  For now I won’t do anything about the leatherjackets, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for any damage in this area.

There is a lot of information about Leatherjacket damage on the RHS website here.

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We have now managed to stop yellow patches appearing on our lawn by pouring water on the grass every time Judy (our dog) goes to the toilet.

However at one end of our grass there are still some bare patches where Judy used to run around going mad at next doors dog when he came out.  Judy is a lot calmer now and so I decided to reseed these patches.

I covered the new seeded areas with whatever I could find to stop Judy from running over it…hopefully soon the seeds will germinated and then thicken up quickly:

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It has been lovely spending so much time in my garden this week, especially as Judy has been ‘calmly’ waiting for me, enjoying the sun……this is something that I never thought she would do, so I savour every peaceful moment of it:

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

Have a great week!

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