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A Good Website And My Seed Sowing Calender

Before I start today, I thought you may be interested in a website that my good friend ‘Jeff’ has set up with Catherine.  It is called “Crafts for a sustainable future” and it is fantastic.  This is what it says about it:

“Crafts for a sustainable future is a small business using willow weaving and green-woodworking, local and UK-farmed materials to promote a more sustainable future. We demonstrate and teach the crafts, make useful and decorative products and encourage bio-diversity and good habitat management. We work from two bases in Leicester and Cambridge”.

I love all the information on this website and the page about ‘foraging’ reminded me of when Jeff and Catherine took me around our local park.  I was absolutely astounded by the things that grow wild that we can eat, especially beacuse I had walked past them many times without realising that they were edible.  It was such an enjoyable evening that I won’t forget, so thank you Jeff and Catherine.

You can find their website here.

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It’s been another busy weekend.

I did my usual batch baking yesterday and made fruit scones for my daughter’s lunchbox:

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I buttered them and put them in the freezer on a tray, until they were frozen.  I then transferred them into a freezer bag, ready for the week ahead.  It’s easy to pop a frozen scone into my daughter’s lunch box each morning and it’s defrosted by lunchtime.

You can find the recipe here.

My first wallflowers this year in bloom

My first wallflowers this year in bloom

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This weekend I syphoned my first homemade wine into bottles.  I paid £10 in the Christmas sales for a starter kit and I then purchased six wine bottles and some re-usable corks, which came to £6.  I managed to get 5½ bottles of wine out of it, so this worked out at £2.90 per bottle, which I thought was pretty cheap.

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We thought we would try the half bottle of wine straight away and I’ve got to say it was really nice.  So I definately will be making some more.

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My daughter came to my allotment yesterday with me and she noticed there was some frog spawn in the pond.  It seems to be late this year, I assume it is due to the cold spring weather.

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I love frogs as they eat lots of snails.  I was lucky to catch the following photograph last year, which shows a frog eyeing up it’s dinner:

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Seeds I have already sown this year:

I thought it may be interesting for people to see what vegetables I have sown so far this year.  I try to pick crops that we like to eat and I like to grow.  I also like to try a different fruit or vegetable each year, this year I am trying to grow melons in my polytunnel.

I occaisionally buy special varieties that I think are particularly good to grow, but usually my choice is dictated by the seeds I manage to buy in the sales at the end of the year.

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I start most of my seeds in pots on my windowsill at home, or my heated greenhouse, or my plastic ‘mini’ greenhouse that has no heat.

I love to grow my crops from seed, as it gives me an enormous sense of acheivement and self satisfaction, especially when I serve my vegetables at meal times.

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So here is a list of what I have sown so far:

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Crop Variety Date sown
Broad beans Aquadulce 09-Jan
onions Bedfordshire champion 09-Jan
Basil Sweet genovese 09-Jan
Coriander For leaf 09-Jan
Leeks Musselburgh 09-Jan
Peppers California wonder 09-Jan
Celeriac Brilliant 25-Feb
Lettuce Webbs wonderful 25-Feb
shallots 06-Feb
Cauliflower All year round 25-Feb
Cabbage Robinson champion 25-Feb
Brussells Igor 07-Mar
Red Cabbage –  Summer Kalibos 07-Mar
Cucumber-greenhouse Euphya 07-Mar
Pea (Dwarf) Meteor 07-Mar
Coriander For leaf 07-Mar
Tomato-greenhouse Wladeks / Moneymaker 26-Feb
Basil Sweet genovese 07-Mar
Cape Gooseberry (variety not known) 07-Mar
Onion sets Turbo 27-Mar
Spring onions White lisbon 17-Mar
Indian spicy cress (variety not known) 17-Mar
Lettuce Webbs wonderful 17-Mar
Cauliflower All year round 17-Mar
Potatoes Marfona 09-Apr
Potatoes Picasso / Desiree 20-Apr
carrots (variety not known) 09-Apr
Tomato Outdoor girl 05-Apr
Parsnips Gladiator 05-Apr
Beetroot Boltardy 05-Apr
Spring onions Shimonita 17-Apr
Spring Brocoli 05-Apr
Khol Rabi Azure star 05-Apr
Pea (Climbing) Pea shooter 06-Apr
Pea (Dwarf) Mixed – saved seed 06-Apr
Mangetout 06-Apr
Basil Sweet genovese 05-Apr
Coriander For leaf 05-Apr
Radish Sparkler3 09-Apr
Swede Ruby 17-Apr
Butternut Squash Hunter 17-Apr
Turnips Purple top milan 18-Apr
lettuce Webbs wonderful 17-Apr
Pumpkin Hundred weight 17-Apr
Patty Pans Sunburst squash 17-Apr
Courgettes Black beauty 17-Apr
Pea (Dwarf) Onward 18-Apr
Mixed salad leaves 18-Apr
Melon Outdoor wonder 18-Apr
Cauliflower All year round 18-Apr
Perpetual spinach 17-Apr
Gherkins Diamant 18-Apr

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I will put this information on a ‘page’ at the top of my blog, in the next week,  so it doesn’t get ‘lost’ in the many blog posts I write.  I will also include a list of the seeds I have planned to sow over the next few months too.

Hopefully this will help anyone that is unsure of what they want to grow and when to grow it.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

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Homemade ‘Wraps’, Laundry Liquid, The Allium Leaf Miner And Seed Sowing Continued.

The Allium Leaf Miner

If you read my blog on Friday, you will know that last week, I dug up my remaining leeks and froze then.

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While I was preparing them, I found something interesting that I thought I would share with you.

I found an Allium Leaf Miner, so I took a photograph to show you.

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Plants affected by the allium leaf miner tend to rot, from the damage it has caused on the plant. If you look closely on the picture above, you can see the small brown pupae, 3-4 mm long, embedded in the stem.

This is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002. It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time two years ago.

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks. Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

Last year I lost quite a few of my overwintering onions to the Allium Leaf Miner, so this year I covered them in environmesh, though it would cost too much to cover all the alliums I grow at my allotment, so I’ll have to hope for the best.

You can read all about the Allium Leaf Miner here.

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Seed Sowing:

The seeds I sowed on the 25th February have now all germinated and are growing well:

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From left to right, I have Celeriac, greenhouse tomatoes, lobelia, lettuce, cabbage and cauliflowers.

The celeriac, tomatoes and lobelia are sitting on my windowsill inside my house and the cabbages, cauliflowers and lettuce are sitting on a heated mat in my cold greenhouse.

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The seeds I grew on the 9th January are also doing well now too:

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From left to right I have peppers, basil, broadbeans and onions.

The broadbeans are in my cold greenhouse (as they are an overwintering variety), and the rest are sitting on my windowsill inside.

Finally, the shallots I planted in paper pots on the 6th February, have all rooted and some are beginning to sprout:

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So far, my seed sowing is going well.

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Laundry liquid:

I was running short of my homemade laundry liquid this week, so I made some more.

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I love this liquid as it saves us so much money and it is really easy to make.

You can read how to make it here.

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Homemade Wraps:

Today I thought I’d show you how I make homemade ‘Wraps’.

Homemade wraps are brilliant as they are so so easy to make and I have worked out that they cost just 15 pence to make…this is just under an incredible 2 pence per wrap!

The cheapest wraps I have managed to find are currently 12.6 pence per wrap, so it’s definitely cheaper to make them.

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 Homemade Wraps:

250g plain flour

1 tablespoon of olive oil

150ml warm water

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Sift the flour into a bowl.

In a separate jug, add the olive oil to the warm water, then add this mix to the sieved flour and stir well until it all comes together into a ball.

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Knead the ball for approximately 5 minutes.  Add a little bit extra flour if the ball is too sticky.

Divide your dough ball into 8 pieces.

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Heat a frying pan until it is very hot and then turn down to a medium heat.

While the pan is heating, sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll out a dough ball into a rough circle shape.

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Put into the frying pan (with no oil) and cook for approximately 1 minute, then turn and cook for a further minute on the other side.

(Be careful not to overcook or the wraps will break when you fold them).

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Leave to cool on a cooling tray.

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How to fold a wrap:

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Half fill the wrap with your desired filling

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(in the picture I used mayonnaise, cheese and salad, but you can put whatever you normally put in your sandwiches).

Fold the top, three quarters of the way over the bottom

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Fold the left side over the right side and turn the wrap over.

Then you have a perfect, homemade wrap…..Enjoy!

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I’ll be back on Friday.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Seedlings, Snow and Painting

The snow has been beautiful to look at this week and it’s been so much fun for children, even though it has caused a lot of traffic disruption.

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Both my daughters’ schools were closed on Monday, so it was lovely to have them around.   I took my youngest daughter sledging and I’ve got to say we had a wonderful time.  My girls also built a snow man in the garden and they had a snowball fight with their dad, so they really took advantage of the heavy snow.

On Monday, I was worried about the heavy snow affecting my polytunnel at my allotment, so I went to check it.  There really was a lot of snow on it, so I knocked it all off with my brush.  Unfortunately, it had done a bit of damage, as the plastic was beginning to pull away from the door frame.  I will have to fix this on a dry day.

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My allotment visit was at 3.30pm, which was fine to get into the gate at the allotment site, but unfortunately by the time I left, the locks on both the allotment gates had frozen up as the temperature must have dropped.

I must admit I was beginning to panic a bit, having visions of being stuck all night in a cold dark allotment, but luckily someone came out of a house next to the gate so I was able to shout him.  He poured hot water over the lock and at last I was free!  I certainly won’t be going to my allotment in the snow at that time of day again!

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Remember the nineteen packets of unopened seeds I put on EBay…well I managed to sell them for £8.44, plus postage.  I know it isn’t loads of money but ‘every little helps’ as Tesco says in it’s well know advert.

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My seedlings are doing well on my window sill.  The coriander is looking a bit ‘leggy’, due to the low light level and the seedlings lean towards the light.  I take all of my seedlings off the window sill at night (so they don’t get too cold) and turn them around the next day, when I put them back on again.

To help with the light, I have covered some old cardboard in foil and put it at the back of all of my seedlings, this will allow the light to  reflect back onto them, to stop them leaning so much.

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My leeks are coming up nicely too.  I had wanted to move them quite quickly into my cold greenhouse, but the temperatures have been so low, even in the day time, that I haven’t been able to do this yet.  This means I will have to ‘harden them off’ first (which means gradually leaving them outside for a longer period each day, so it’s not such a shock for the plants).  I will wait until the weather warms up a little in the day time.

My onions are also doing well.  I used a pinch of seed in each individual module and they have germinated.  I then ‘thinned them out’ so there is now just one onion in each module.

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The onions will stay on my window sill for quite some time now.  I do have an electric greenhouse heater, but it does cost quite a lot to run, so I use my window sills until they are at bursting point.

Finally, my basil is also peeping through now, but my peppers are still in my propagator with no sign of germination.

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As it has been so cold and a thick layer of snow has covered everything outside, I haven’t been able to get to my allotment to actually do anything.  So I decided it was time I did the long overdue painting job on my hallway and landing.

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Over a year ago, my dad had some dated B&Q vouchers given to him (compensation from his housing association), which he knew he wouldn’t use, so he bought me some paint for my hallway.  I was really grateful to him as paint is expensive.

As my daughter had problems with her asthma for months last year, I daren’t start to paint just in case the smell from the paint upset her even more.  So that’s why it took so long to start.

I started by sanding down all the woodwork

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and then I painted the ceiling with a roller.

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I used a paint pad to put the paint onto the walls, which quickly coated it well.

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I only needed to use one coat of paint on the walls as it is a Dulux paint which is good quality and I’m actually painting it the same colour.  I think the colour looks ‘homely’ with the good quality carpet that we inherited ten years ago, when we moved in.

I am not the best painter around, so I used masking tape to cover the woodwork while I painted the walls.

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Afterwards I started on the woodwork.  In the past I have always used gloss, but it really does smell, so I’ve used a B&Q ‘Anywhere’ paint which is waterbased.  I used it in my both my daughters bedrooms and it has been fine, I so I thought I’d give it a try in the hall.

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I’ve still got to finish the woodwork, but I quite enjoy doing it when I’m listening to our local radio station.  I find painting very therapeutic and it will be so rewarding when it’s finished.

The ceiling after I painted it

The ceiling after I painted it

Painting your house yourself, is far cheaper than paying for a professional to paint it.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

Seed Sorting, First Sowings and Seed Potatoes

It’s been snowing all day here.

Earlier, I walked down to my allotment to check it over and it looked beautiful:

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Unfortunately my nets have taken a battering!  I cleared the snow off them but I will have to sort them out properly another day:

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Over the last two weeks I have been sorting all of my seeds out.

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As I have four allotments, I do need a lot of seeds.  I have a spreadsheet with all the seed packets listed on it, this way I know every single packet of seed that I have and the date they need to be used by (though some seeds I keep an awful lot longer than the date on the packet e.g. brassicas, as I know they will be ok to use a long time after the ‘sow by’ date).

 I do have a weakness with seeds and I find it hard to resist a free packet or a bargain, so after sorting them out I found I had quite a few duplicates.  I have never sold seeds on EBay before, but as there were so many I decided to give it a try.  I’m not sure if they will sell or not, but I will let you know.

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During the next week I will be sitting down and working out exactly what vegetables and salads I want to grow on my allotment this year.  After this I will work out a month by month plan, showing exactly when to sow my seeds and whether the seeds need heat or not.  I will show you the end results after I have completed this.

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Over the last two weeks I have sowed my first seeds for 2013.  Before I did this I made some more seed labels and in Mrs Thrift fashion, I made them for free.

All I use is an old plastic milk bottle that has been washed out.

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I cut it up into labels, with a point at one end and write the plant type on the label in permanent ink.

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The seeds I sowed were sweet peppers, coriander, basil, leeks and onions.  I have put these in a propagator on my window sill until they germinate, at which time the propagator lids will come off.  The leeks will then go into my unheated greenhouse,  while the others will be grown inside my house, where it is warmer.

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I also planted some more garlic.  Previously I planted some garlic at my allotment, but it has been so wet that hardly any have grown and I suspect they have actually rotted in the ground.  As a back up, I have planted some more in pots, which I will keep in my cold greenhouse for now.

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The broadbeans that I planted in December are just poking there heads through the compost, so I am really pleased with this.  These were planted into cardboard toilet roll tubes.

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Unfortunately, the broad beans I planted in pots at the end of October are really very leggy and probably won’t make very good plants now.  Unfortunately they are the result of mild weather and the fact that I haven’t been able to plant them into my allotment, due to the ridiculous amount of wet weather we have had for weeks on end.   I may just plant them in my polytunnel to see what happens.

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My two free strawberry plants from Spalding bulbs are still sitting nicely in my cold greenhouse.  I will plant them in the spring.

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Last week I brought my seed potatoes.  I usually buy them from a place called ‘Hawgrips’ which is in Enderby, Leicester.  I like to buy them early as I get a bigger choice of varieties to choose from and I make sure I get the ones I want.  I also like the fact that you buy them loose, rather than in bags, as I work out exactly how many I need and just count them into bags.

I have chosen my usual two favourites:

Marfona (A second early) and

Picasso (an early maincrop so this helps to miss the blight).

This year I have decided to also grow ‘Desiree’ potatoes, after much discussion with one of my fellow allotment friends.  I had such a big problem with slugs last year and my friends’ Desiree potatoes didn’t seem to have a problem, so I thought I’d try them.  I let you know how I get on.

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When I bought the potatoes home, I put them into trays to ‘chit’ them.  ‘Chitting’ just means that you are encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before you plant them outside.  All you need to do is stand the tubers with the eyes facing upwards, in trays or old egg boxes.

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Contrary to popular belief, chitting potatoes is not essential, except for early varieties, to produce an earlier maturing crop.  However, if you buy your main crop early like I do, then you may as well ‘chit’ them as well.

Place the potatoes in a cool, light place.  I leave mine in our bedroom, as it’s the coolest room in the house…so romantic!

I hope we have a better crop of potatoes to harvest this year, as they were full of slug holes in 2012.

Last years potato crop

Last years potato crop

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.