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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!

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Seed sowing And How To Prick Out Seedlings

The weather has been beautiful over the weekend here in Leicester.  Yesterday I was actually working in a short sleeved T-shirt.

I noticed quite a few ladybirds moving about and one or two early bumblebees on my daffodils.  I also saw this lovely butterfly basking in the sun right at the back of my plot:

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The sunshine is a timely reminder that it will soon be time to sow or plant vegetables outside (though it is still too early yet as my soil is still too cold), so I have been finishing off digging manure or compost in beds that needed it.

I have also been feeding my fruit bushes, strawberries and trees with ‘potash’ which is great for fruiting plants.  It is also great for flowers too, so I have also used it to feed my flower beds.

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I sprinkle a handful around the trees and bushes and then hoe it in.  I will also mulch the plants with some homemade compost too when I get around to it.

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Since my last blog post, I have been sowing the following seeds at home:

Brussels

Red Cabbage

Greenhouse Cucumbers

Coriander

Mixed Salad Leaves

Lettuce – Webbs Wonderful

I germinate the seeds in unheated propagators next to my window.  When the seeds have germinated, I take the lids off the propagator and move the seeds to my heated greenhouse.  I keep my greenhouse at a minimum temperature of 10C which is just right for most of my seeds, though this weekend in the sunshine the temperature has reached well over 30C with the door and window open.

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And I have also sown a couple of rows of Lollo Rosso lettuce and a row of radish in my polytunnel, just to test how warm the soil is in there.

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I have also been busy making plant lables using old plastic milk bottles.  They are free and easy to make.  All you do is wash the plastic milk bottle and cut them to the right shape.  I use a permanent marker to write on them, the same way I would normally write on a shop brought plant label:

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I sowed some greenhouse tomatoes (Moneymaker) and some cauliflowers on the 14th of February and they were both ready to transplant.

Any plants that need a bit of extra heat (like my peppers) I leave them next to the window with some silver foil wrapped around cardboard, behind them.  This helps reflect the light which helps to stop the seedlings leaning towards the window so much.

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Just in case you are new to growing your vegetables from seed, I have written below how to transplant seedlings:

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How to transplant seedlings:

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First use a ‘dibber’ or an old pencil to ease up your seedlings from out of your pot.  Try and ease the seedling up from the bottom by going underneath the roots with the dibber.  Hold the seedling only by its seed leaves.

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Fill a clean pot with compost and make a hole in the compost with your dibber.

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Ease the root into the hole using the dibber and ease the compost around it gently.

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Water and move to a warm place, out of the sun for a few days.

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Then watch your seedling grow!

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Just to finish off, last week I dug lots of compost into my dad’s bed at the front of my fourth plot, ready for him to plant into soon.

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Unfortunately, he has been having more and more problems with his back and legs and after discussing this at length with him, he has decided to just use his garden at home to grow his vegetables in.  I must say this is a relief to me as I have been worrying about this area being too much for him, but I also feel sad as I will miss him at my allotment.

 April 2012

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.