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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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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.

Farm Visits & Growing Herbs

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 June’ can be found here.

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

I hope it helps someone out there.

My 'free' azalea that I have grown from a tiny little plant

My ‘free’ azalea that I have grown from a tiny little plant

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I have loads to talk about this week, but firstly I want to say an enormous “thank you” to all the people that commented on my blog last week after my ‘blog wobble’.  I was absolutely overwhelmed by the lovely things you all said and it really has spurred me on to keep blogging.

All I can say is I am very lucky to have your continued support…thank you for this.

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Out and about during the week:

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Last weekend I visited two working organic farms with my friends from the ‘Western Park Organic Gardening Forum’.

Firstly we went to Oakley Grange which is a 660 acre farm, just outside Hathern in Leicestershire and a gentleman called Richard gave us a guided tour and it was most interesting to hear about his farm.

We had a lovely lunch too in his cafe.

You can read about the farm here.

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We also visited Manor Organic Farm in Long Whatton, Leicestershire:

“We have been farming organically since 1989 and believe that organic farming is a positive philosophy, and is more than just avoiding the use of artificial chemicals and fertilisers. It is a sustainable approach to farming which views the farm as a whole system in harmony with the natural surroundings and nature itself as well as the local community”.

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The farmer (Graeme) again showed us around the farm and told us all about his animals and the meat they sell.  One of the things he said really stuck in my mind……he said when he goes out for a meal he will only eat vegetarian meals as he doesn’t know how the animals have been treated by other people.  He said he only eats the meat that he has produced, so he knows that the animals have been treated well.

The butcher in their shop was also very knowledgable about the meat they sell and spent time showing me what I could buy and how much it would cost me.  Organic meat is a lot more expensive to buy, but I can now see the benefits of buying it……the hard bit will be convincing my family, so I need to think about this.

This farm also had a cafe and we all had a lovely drink and cake to finish the day off.

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I enjoyed both farm visits immensly and it was great getting so close to the animals.

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In my Kitchen Garden:

As it’s June I have been planting some of my more tender plants outside…..I started with my two butternut squash plants.

Our family love butternut squashes and I had the luxury at the allotment of growing lots of these as I had plenty of space:

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However, it would be impossible to grow this amount in my new kitchen garden, but I wanted to try and grow at least a couple of plants.  I decided to have a go at growing them up the post that holds my washing line.  So a few a weeks ago I tied some chicken wire around the post and dug some organic manure into the soil.  This week I planted two plants at the base of the post and as it was still quite cool at the beginning of the week, I placed a bottle over the plants to act as a mini cloche to help them establish:

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As the plants grow I will tie them to the support…..I will keep you informed on how they are doing.

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I have also planted out the tagetes that I grew from seed, along the edges of my paths.  I think they look good when they are in flower and their smell helps to confuse pests, which help to protect my vegetables.

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I had a few outdoor tomato plants left, so I decided to put these in pots as I couldn’t bare to throw them away.  I didn’t really want too many pots around my garden as it means daily watering, but I do love tomatoes so I decided to keep them:

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This week I planted some more spring onions that I grew from seed.  Again I sowed a few seeds together in modules and didn’t bother to thin them out, as they ‘push’ apart as they grow:

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The first spring onions are not yet ready to eat, but we have started to eat the onion sets that I planted closely together in March.  I don’t know if you remember but I  planted 66 onions very close together in the hope that I could harvest them over a longer period, by picking some when they reached ‘spring onion’ size and leaving the remaining onions to grow to a good size:

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Well I’m pleased to say my plan worked and I have been picking some lovely onions to put in our salads:

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Herbs:

This week I also planted the parsley that I grew from seed.  I love parsley as it’s easy to grow and I like to freeze it to use for the garlic bread I make in the winter months.

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The apple mint that I also brought home from my allotment has finally began to put on some growth.  I will leave it in its pot so the roots are contained and don’t become invasive.

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My daughter likes to put mint in her drinks to make them refreshing and I must say it’s nice now for her as she can just nip outside to pick a few leaves instead of having to remind me constantly to bring some home from the allotment:

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I wanted to include lots of herbs in my new kitchen garden but I didn’t want to use the small amount of ground that I have to grow them – so I have been wondering what to do with them for a while and then I found these pots in Poundstetcher a couple of weeks ago:

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As you can see the pots only cost me 74p, but when I got them home I found that they did look really cheap and nasty when I put them up.  So after a bit of thought I got some old white, outdoor paint from my shed and sponged it on lightly to make the pots look a bit older….and I think it worked and they now look a lot better:

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I then bought some herbs from my local garden centre and planted them in my new pots.

So I now have oregano golden french, marjoram gold, oregano country cream, thyme compact, sage and dill in the pots – though I do know that some of them will need to be moved when they grow larger in a year or two.

I also have lavender and rosemary in bigger pots in between my fruit trees:

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And I have chives growing along my path, which are looking beautiful at the moment as they are in flower and the bees love them…..and the flowers are adding a lovely colour to my salads:

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This week in my kitchen garden I also planted out the calendula that had self seeded in the compost that I brought back from my old allotment.

Calendula looks beautiful when they are flower and the bees love them and you can also eat the flower petals too.  They look great in salads or sprinkled on pasta.

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And finally in my kitchen garden this week I removed the top couple of inches of growth on my broad bean plants.  I do this when the first tiny beans are visable on the plants.

Blackfly absolutely love the top, soft growth on broad bean plants and this stops them:

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In My Home:

This week I decided to do a job that I have been putting off for some time….I have been cleaning the top of my kitchen cupboards for the first time since they were installed 18 months ago….so they were very dirty!

I used white vinegar and a scubber to clean them and they cleaned up well:

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I really don’t want to put this amount of effort into cleaning my cabinets like this again, so I have lined the tops with a sheet of newspaper.  When the paper is dusty and dirty I will remove it and replace it quickly with another one, without having to do any hard work:

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Since we have had the new kitchen I have thought the area above my cupboards looks quite bare, so this week I put some old baskets on the top of the cabinets and I have used some cheap wooden hearts to decorate them….and it now looks much more homely (and I have somewhere to store my jars for jam making too):

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

Have a good weekend!

Greenhouse Shading And Banana Recipes

There has been some really miserable weather this week and it’s been hard to get into the garden to do any work.

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However, in between the showers I did manage to plant my mange tout, in front of my strawberries.  I am trying very hard to use every bit of space I have to grow vegetables.

This really is a trial year for my kitchen garden and I’m not sure yet if things will grow well or not.  I was hoping that I will have picked the strawberries before the peas grow taller and take away some of the sunlight….however due to the miserable, cool weather we have been having this may not work, as there are no sign of flowers on my strawberries yet.

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You can see in the second photo, I have put wire over the peas to stop the birds from eating them and my dog from destroying them (as she still goes mad when my neighbours dog is out).

I grew the monge tout in small lengths of guttering, which I ‘slide out’ into prepared soil when they have germinated.  I find this gives me a better germination rate.

You can read exactly how I grow peas in guttering here.

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I also planted out a few of my outdoor tomatoes that I sowed on the 5th April.  You can see in the photo above that I am leaving some glass over them because the temperature outside is still quite cool for this time of year.

The tomatoes are a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’ and I have grown them now for many years outside.  One seed company describes them as follows:

“Tomato Outdoor Girl is a really tough outdoor tomato, very easy to grow and tolerant to low temperatures. Early to fruit producing medium sized fruits of good flavour and colour

I think they are spot on with this description, as they really do give a good supply of tomatoes early on, so I get a good harvest before blight hits.

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In between my tomatoes I have planted some Tegetes as they look lovely when they are in flower and they also confuse the white fly with their smell, so this will stop them from attacking my plants.

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In my greenhouse this week I took the bubble wrap down that provided a layer in insulation over winter, (before it actually fell down on its own).  I have left it in place over the last few years and it was now brittle and tore very easily.

I replaced it with shading netting that will help my plants on hot sunny days.  I bought my shade netting from Wilkinsons as I found it cheapest from there:

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Last week I planted my basil in bags in my greenhouse and this week I sowed a catch crop of radish in between them and amazingly the radish germinated in just five days.  I also sowed a row of radish outside on the same day and they are nowhere to be seen yet.

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This week I harvested my first radish from the garden.  These were sowed on the 10th April:

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 I also picked a few of my everlasting onions:

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And I had my third cut of mixed salad leaves that I sowed in a pot in March:

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(Next year I am hoping to be havesting more things at this time of year, now my kitchen garden is up and running).

The aim of my kitchen garden is to harvest as much as possible from a small space.

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At home this week:

I made a big batch of tomato and basil soup from tomatoes I grew at my allotment last year and froze (I just chop the fresh tomatoes in half and place in a freezer bag and then into the freezer).

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When the soup was ready I then froze it in portions, so I can defrost a bowl full for lunch when I want to:

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Top Tip:

This week my daughter brought some plastic cups from the ‘pound shop’ and she couldn’t get the sticky labels off:

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So I put a drop of olive oil on the sticky labels and then I used a scrubber to easily remove the sticky label and residue remaining:

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This also works for removing the sticky residue on jam jars when most of the label has been removed.

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And finally I made some banana lollies and some super quick and easy ‘breadmaker’ banana bread from the ‘whoopsied’ bananas that I bought at the end of last week and I have written bothe of these recipies below for anyone that is intersted:

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Super Quick And Easy Banana Bread In A Breadmaker:

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3 over ripe bananas mashed

200 grams granulated sugar

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

2 eggs

270g self raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

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Put all the above ingredients into your breadmaker pan and put it on a ‘pizza dough’ setting for 5 minutes.

Stop the breadmaker half way through and scrape down the sides of your pan with a spatula to ensure all the flour is mixed in well,

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When there is no trace of flour left, set your breadmaker on a ‘bake’ setting for 55 minutes:

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The result is lovely banana bread

(which incidentally can be sliced and frozen for another time):

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Banana Ice Lollies:

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2 Ripe banana’s

3 tablespoons natural yoghurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

60 grams chocolate

2 tablepoons of milk

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Use a hand blender to combine the banana, yoghurt and vanilla until they are smooth:

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Pour the resulting mixture into four lolly moulds, leaving a slight gap at the top for the chocolate:

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Put the chocolate and milk in a microwaveable jug and microwave on full power until the chocolate has melted (this only takes a couple of minutes so keep checking it).

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Let the chocolate mix cool down for a few minutes and then pour it over the banana mixture:

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Put the lollies in the freezer overnight:

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And then enjoy:

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

Have a good weekend!

‘Hardening Off’ & Homemade Yoghurt

I love May in the garden as all the new shoots growing are so fresh, green and vibrant.

In my garden at home the dicentra is flowering, the euphorbia looks stunning and my hardy geraniums are beginning to flower too.  The wall flowers I transplanted from my old allotment are still looking stunning as well, giving the bees some welcome ‘spring’ pollen.

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This year however, it has felt like we have been having ‘April showers’ and ‘March winds’ in between some beautiful sunny ‘May days’…..with global warming I expect we will see more strange weather patterns over the coming years.

Nevertheless I have been harding off my plants ready for the threat of any frost to pass (usually at the end of this month where I live).

My hanging baskets and pots sit out all day now and are growing well….

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…And some of my plants are harding off on my table in the day time and are brought inside in the evening….

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….And some are left in my cold frame all day and I close it at night:

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Hardening off plants:

“Hardening off” plants allows them to adapt to outside conditions before they are planted in their final positions.  There are two ways to do this:

1) Put your plants in a cold frame and gradually open the window of the cold frame more each day until it is fully opened or

2) Bring your plants outside for an hour or two for the first day and then gradually increase the time they spend outside each day.

The RHS suggest that hardening off plants properly takes approximately two to three weeks and Monty Don from Gardeners World says one week…..I usually aim for two weeks.

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Whatever stage of ‘hardening off’ you are at, it is important to keep checking the weather forecast in your area, as frost tender plants need to be brought in at night (or covered over) if a frost is forecast.

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In my greenhouse this week:

You will remember last week that one of the cucumbers that I grew from seed died due to ‘stem rot’  (cucumbers are suseptible to this when you over water them so I only have myself to blame).

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This week I went out and bought a replacement from my local nursery for 60p and planted it in a tub next to my remaining cucumber grown from seed:

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This week I also planted the basil that I sowed from seed on the 5th April, into it’s final growing place in my greenhouse next to the peppers that I also grew from seed on the 3rd March.

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  The bags they are growing in were bought from the supermarket as ‘garden tidy bags’, so it was a cheap way to grow crops in my greenhouse (which has a concrete floor).

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I have also planted my melons in larger pots, ready for them to grow.  When they are bigger I am hoping to train them along the top of my greenhouse, over my tomato plants.  Incidentally the melons were sown in newspaper pots so it was very easy to transplant them without any root disturbance, as I planted the newspaper pot straight into the compost:

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Another job was to transplant my butternut squash plants into larger pots.  I will leave them in the greenhouse for a few days and then I will also start to harden these off ready for planting out at the beginning of June:

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Finally in my greenhouse, I noticed the first tomato on one of my plants…..this means it is time to start the feeding once a week.  Previously at my allotment I would use a homemade ‘comfrey feed’ which is high in potash which is great for fruit and flowers….(you can read how to make a ‘comfrey feed’ here).  Unfortunately as I transplanted my comfrey only a couple of months ago, it isn’t ready to use yet, so I will be using a commercial organic tomato feed.

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Outside my greenhouse in my kitchen garden:

This week I have been planting my courgettes in the large pots I brought back from my allotment.  You may remember I planted some lettuce plants around the edges of the containers and they are doing well.  Hopefully the lettuces will be fully grown before the courgettes need the space:

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At the moment I am keeping them covered with the glass, just to give them an extra bit of heat to get them growing well.

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I have again thinned out the leeks that I sowed way back in March.  This is later than I normally sow my leeks and they are still small, so I am using the area where they will eventually be grown, to plant my lettuces.  I am growing them in succession so we have a good supply to eat over the summer months:

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As you can see in the photograph above, I covered the first lettuces that I planted to protect them from the pigeons (they used to eat the lettuces at my allotment if they weren’t covered).  This time I decided to not cover the newly planted lettuces to see what happens in my new kitchen garden – I will be watching the pigeons carefully!

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Finally in the garden this week I planted the cherry tomatoes that I sowed on the 5th April.  They are a variety call ‘Minibel’ which are supposed to be suitable for pots, containers and baskets….so I have taken their word and planted them in a hanging basket….I will let you how I get on over the weeks:

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At Home This Week:

This week I have had a big sort out of my three freezers.  I am not sure if I will still be using all three of them in the future, but at the moment they are still full of homemade goodies and homegrown fruit and vegetables.

I make sure I check what is in my freezers regularly as this helps when I plan my meals and it makes sure that everything is used and not forgotten about.  Just incase anyone is interested, I wrote and article about freezing crops here.

One of my three freezers

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I managed to get some ‘whoopsied’ brussells and banana’s this week from the supermarket, so I also froze the brussells for another day and I made a couple of banana cakes to slice and freeze too and I also made some banana and chocolate lollies.  I will share the recipes with you another time.

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I also make rolls to freeze for the week ahead.  I bake the rolls as usual and when they are cool I slice them in half and then pop the rolls in the freezer.  This way I can take a roll out of the freezer in the morning and pop the filling inside and it will defrost in my familys lunchboxes ready for them at dinner time.

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I also use my freezer for homemade ice cream too.  I made some nice and easy vanilla ice cream this week (the recipe is here).  You don’t need an ice cream maker to make ice cream, but it does take the hard work out of it….I bought mine from a charity shop for just £10 and it had never been used and was still in the box when I purchased it.

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This week we had family round for Sunday lunch.  I made a nice Rhubarb and Ginger cake for pudding, thanks to My friend Jeff who has brought me some rhubarb from his allotment and the wonderful person that left some Rhubarb on my doorstep when I was out last Saturday …I still haven’t managed to find out who it was, so if you are reading my blog this week – thank you.

Unfortunately my rhubarb in my new kitchen garden isn’t ready to eat, as it takes a year or two for it to establish properly before it can be picked.

The recipe for the Rhubarb and Ginger cake is here and it went lovely with a spoonful of the homemade vanilla ice cream:

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Finally this week I made some plain yoghurt.  I haven’t made yoghurt for a while and Mr Thrift likes to take it to work for his lunch, so I dusted my yoghurt maker down and finally made some.

A few years ago I was given an Easiyo Yoghurt maker.  You can see a similar one here.  The idea of an Easiyo Yoghurt maker is to use sachets of the Easiyo yoghurt mixes which you buy.  I don’t do this, as I think they are expensive and I like to make mine from scratch.

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This is an easy way to make yoghurt:

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You will need skimmed milk powder

UHT Milk

A yoghurt starter (see below)

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The first time you make yoghurt, you will need to buy a small amount of ‘live’ natural yoghurt, or ‘probiotic’ natural yoghurt.  This will give your yoghurt mix, the bacteria that it needs to make yoghurt.  Each time you make your own yoghurt, save 3 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt ready to start your next batch of homemade yoghurt.  Your starter can be frozen until needed.  I do this up to four or five times only, as the bacteria seems to weaken each time.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of skimmed milk powder into your yoghurt maker canister.  Half fill the canister with UHT milk and give it a good shake.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of ‘Yoghurt starter’ into the canister.

Top up the canister with UHT milk and give it another good shake.

Put boiling water into the Easiyo flask and then add the canister.

 Put the lid on and leave for approximately ten hours.

Take the canister out of the Easyio flask and then put it in the fridge to finish setting.

I then save 3 heaped tablespoons of the yoghurt and pop it in the freezer as a ‘yoghurt starter’ for the next time I make it.

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Enjoy the yoghurt plain, or with fruit mixed in.

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

Have a good weekend!

My First Crops And ‘Pricking Out’ Seedlings

My life has changed so much over the last year for one reason or another and at times I have found the changes very hard to come to terms with, especially having to give my four allotments up.  But my family mean the world to me and this is the way it has to be for the moment.

I have tried very hard not to think about my old allotment plots and make the best of what I do have, which is why I created my new kitchen garden:

(Below are my ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos):

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In the beginning I think Mr Thrift thought I was mad digging up the back garden, especially as it looked like such a small area.  However, I knew it was bigger than it looked because I had crawled under the bushes at the back of the garden to see where the boundary fence actually was.

The soil was awful too….a very heavy clay which I could easily have made a few ‘clay pots’ out of, but I forked in lots of council ‘green waste’ compost (£2 for a very large bag) and a few bags of organic manure, I can already see how much the soil has improved.

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I have started to put some flowers into my new plot to attract some beneficial insects to it.  It is beginning to look pretty in places now and I have already noticed some bees buzzing around.

The Forget-me-nots and Aubrietia that I brought back from my allotment

The Forget-me-nots and Aubrietia that I brought back from my allotment

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The weather here has been lovely over the last week or so and I have started to see some benefits to have a vegetable plot in my back garden.  I have found that I can pop out and pull up a few weeds when I want to, or just check my plants over when I have just a few minutes to spare and I can also go out very early in the morning or at dusk to finish off a few jobs…..I have even walked around it sometimes in my dressing gown and slippers (I hope my neighbours didn’t see me, as I do look a sight in the morning).

I have found it is also lovely to be able to go inside to warm up with a hot drink if it’s cold or to cool down in the middle of the day when it’s hot (like it has been this week).  And I mustn’t forget to say that it is really nice to go to the toilet when I want to as well.

I couldn’t do these things at my allotment.

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I am having to learn how to cram as much as possible in a small space and use every bit of space that is available in my garden and my greenhouse.

The photographs above show the cut and come again salad mix that I sowed at the beginning of March in old containers from the supermarket.  They have been growing in my greenhouse and this week we had some for tea.

We have also been eating a few of the chives that I brought back from my allotment in January and planted along my new path.

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It really is nice to nip out and pick something when I feel like it, rather than planning what I must pick each day and bringing back it home from my allotment.

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So even though I am still sad to have given my allotment plots up, I am seeing some lovely benefits for having a small kitchen garden at home.

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In My Kitchen Garden This week…..

This week my new compost bins were delivered.  I ordered two galvanised metal bins to replace the plastic ones I used before in my garden as compost bins.

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Unfortunately my neighbours recently had a rat set up home in their shed and this made me worry that the compost in my new kitchen garden (that is close to our house) would attract the rats too.

  For years at my allotment I had problems with rats in my black darlek compost bins (even though I never put anything into them that I shouldn’t have).  At one stage I purchased rodent proof bottoms for the darlek bins and the rats just bit a hole through them to get in!

The only way I managed to deter them from going into my darlek compost bins at the allotment was by taking the lids off all winter and making sure the contents were wet (as rats don’t like the wet and cold).  However at home, I didn’t want to attract the rats at all, which is why I have bought the metal bins, which hopefully they won’t be able to bite into.

I have already started to fill them and I can see I will need to buy more in the future:

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This week I have started to ‘harden off’ some of my plants, ready to plant out soon.  The cabbages, spring onions and peas are now sitting in my cold ‘mini’ greenhouse which I leave open in the day and shut at night:

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I have sown some seeds directly into my soil outside this week too….kohl rabi, turnip, radish and beetroot.  I always had problems sowing seeds directly in my heavy clay soil at my allotment as the germination rate was so low – so this is really a trial and i’m not sure what will happen.  I have covered the seeds with wire to protect them from the birds (I brought the wire back from my allotment in January):

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I have also planted my potatoes.  If you have been reading my blog for a long time you will know I usually plant three varieties at my allotment- Marfona (2nd early), piccasso (early main crop) and Desiree (a late main crop).  Obviously this year I don’t have the luxury of space and I can only plant a very small amount of seed potatoes, so I chose to grow twelve Desiree potatoes (as these are the least suseptable to slug and eel worm) and six Marfona seed potatoes, as I do love the taste of these new potatoes.

As usual I pulled a trench out of the soil with my draw hoe and then used a bulb planter to make the hole deeper:

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I also had four Marfona seed potatoes spare, so I put them in one of my old plastic compost bins:

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I covered the potatoes with compost and I will add more to the bin each time the foliage grows.

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I also planted some sweet peas this week.  I put some pea netting up for them to climb and I covered them with bottles to stop the slugs while they are establishing themselves:

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I also sowed some wildflower seeds around them – this is earlier than I normally sow these seeds, but the wall should bring the temperature in the area up a degree or two.

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One of the other things I did this week was to make up my hanging baskets.  I must confess, I did buy the small plants from our local nursery (as I have been so disorganised this year), but it is still alot cheaper than buying a ready made basket.

Hopefully  next year I will grow the plants myself from seed.

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As you can see, I use an empty compost bag turned inside out for my baskets.  I like to reuse things when I can and the trailing plants I have used will hopefully cover the bags anyway.

I have already started to harden the baskets and pots, by leaving them outside for a few hours each day.  Even when they are fully hardened off I will continue to bring them back inside my greenhouse if a low temperature or frost is forecast.

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I have also been ‘pricking out’ the seeds that have germinated this week.

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I now have cherry tomatoes (which will eventually go into a hanging basket), outdoor tomatoes which I will grow in pots, some basil to grow in my greenhouse and finally some more lettuce.  All of these will stay in my greenhouse until they are bigger and the risk of frost has past, except for the lettuce that will be hardened off a lot sooner than the others:

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I have also ‘potted on’ my greenhouse cucumbers into large pots….I can’t wait for these to produce fruit as we eat a lot of cucumbers in our house:

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So it’s been another busy week in the ‘Thrift’ garden.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.  I will be back as normal next Friday.

Have a good weekend!

Removing A Conifer And Planting Onions & Garlic

I thought I would start by mentioning that my usual monthly blog post which covers ‘What to do in the kitchen garden in April’ can be found here if anyone is interested.  It covers what weather to expect in a  typical April, which vegetables and salads to harvest, which seeds to sow and what to plant and also jobs that need to be carried out this month.

So it’s well worth a read to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

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October 2014

October 2014

Last weekend we began chopping down the conifer on the left hand side of the photograph above.  This was a small conifer I bought approximately 14 years ago when it was about 30cm high.  The label said it was a slow growing conifer that should grow no more than a meter high!

Obviously I wasn’t expecting it to grow as tall as it did and it was totally unsuitable for the place I had planted it in…. I had to tie the tree to our wall to stop it leaning over, as there wasn’t enough soil for the roots to keep it stable.

So we spent a happy morning chopping it down and poor Mr Thrift nearly wore himself out sawing the trunk across:

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But we eventually managed it and I rebuilt part of the dry stone wall that the previous owner of the house built and I replaced some of the compost.

I have decided this year to plant some sweetpeas to climb up the wall and I will be planting a few wild flower seeds underneath.

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It’s been a real wet and windy week here in the Midlands and all the rain reminded me that I still hadn’t set up my two water butts that I brought from my old allotments.

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I decided to catch the water from my house with the first water butt and so I bought a ‘Rain water diverter’ to fix onto my drainpipe.

I have got to admit I have never done anything like this before, but I thought I would have a go.  Thankfully it wasn’t too difficult and I managed it on my own.

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I tested it to make sure it worked by asking my daughter to pour water out of her bedroom window into the drainpipe (not very technical) and I am pleased to say it worked.

The rain water diverter should channel rain water into the waterbutt until it’s full and then it will go down the drain as normal.  The plan is that I will add another waterbutt at this stage though.

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It rained the following night and it did capture some of the rain and I was very proud until the morning when I noticed that the seal around the tap was now leaking….I must have caused some damage transporting the water butt from my allotment back home.

I had to empty the water butt again to repair the seal and it will now take a couple of days to dry so I am still unable to use the waterbutt.

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Next week I am hoping to set up my second water butt to capture the water from my greenhouse.

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This week I tried desparately to plant my onions and garlic which I started off at the beginning of March in my cold greenhouse (I was a bit late planting my garlic, but I thought I may as well give it a go).  Every time I started to plant them, it rained so I had to stop. Finally we had a lovely day yesterday and I managed to complete planting them.

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Both the onions and garlic had grown well in my newspaper pots and I had prepared the grown where I planted them a couple of weeks earlier by raking in some blood, fish and bone and covering the area with clear plastic to warm the soil up.

I decided to plant the onions 10cm apart and each of the rows just 10cm apart too (usually I plant each row 30cm apart).  If you plant onions closer together you will get smaller onions, but there is method behind my madness……as my kitchen garden is so small, I have decided to harvest the rows in between and eat the onions when they are ‘spring onion’ size in salads etc.

I have planted 66 onions altogether and I am hoping that this way I will have more to harvest over a longer period and the remaining onions can then grow to a good size (this is the plan…I hope it works).

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I also made two ridges using my draw hoe and planted the garlic into the ridges.  Garlic tends to rot in very wet soil and I was very conscious of how wet the soil in my garden was.

(I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have got away with planting my garlic so late):

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On the ground next to my garlic I have used some old grocery boxes (that I brought home from my allotment), to warm the soil ready to sow some beetroot seeds next week.  The boxes are great as it’s easy to rest glass on top of them and they have a small area just under the glass which lets the air circulate too:

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Dispite all the wind this week, my broadbeans seem to be doing well, though I do still need to provide some support for them, to stop them from falling over when they are bigger.

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At the moment they are still looking quite perfect and I am not used to this, as usually at this time of year on my old allotment, I would always see the tell tale sign of the ‘pea and bean weevil’….. maybe because I am away from the allotment I may not suffer so much?

  You can see in the photograph below, that my broadbeans last year had little notches in the edges of the leaves.  This is the work of the ‘Pea and Bean weevil’.

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The adults are beetles that are approximately 4-5mm long, but they are very hard to find as they drop to the ground when they are disturbed.  Their larvea eat the root nodules of the plant in the soil.

I have never yet lost any plants due to the Pea and bean weevil as most broad beans seem to tolerate the damage, but in theory a bad attack could kill your plants.  I make sure that when I overwinter my plants, they are healthy by giving them a feed in the Spring with a general purpose fertiliser (I use blood, fish and bone) and if the weather is dry then I water them.  This way I ensure my plants can cope with an attack without the need to use chemical sprays.

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Elsewhere in my kitchen garden my autumn raspberries are now starting to grow.  I am very relieved as the soil was very cold and wet when I brought them home from my allotment:

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My chives will soon be ready to pick if them keep growing at this speed:

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And the daffodills that I planted a few weeks ago are still producing a lovely display, together with a pot of bulbs that I planted two years ago:

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So all in all the new kitchen garden is starting to come to life.

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At home this week:

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This week I have been making my laundry liquid again.  I get a real buzz when I think about how much money I have saved by using it over the last few years and it is so quick to make.

You can find the recipe for laundry liquid here.

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I also made some more dishwasher liquid using soapnuts, as this also saves money and washes our pots and pans well.  Again it is quick and easy to make.

You can see how I make the dishwasher liquid here if you are interested.

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So all in all it’s been another busy week and I am looking forward to a rest over the Easter holiday….but I’m not very good at sitting still when there is so much to do.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great Easter and a good week!