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Nature Is Wonderful….

This week has been another week of sunshine and showers.  It has also been quite windy at times and I have had to tie up some of my peas and sweetpeas, as the wind blew them away from their supports…..though no harm was done as you can see in the photograph below:

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I think nature has a way of dealing with all situations and the sunshine and showers are certainly helping my plants grow.  Rain is full of nitrogen so the garden is now looking lush and green.

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The sunshine and showers also produced the most spectacular rainbow in the sky (though my camera doesn’t really show the pure beauty of it as well as I would have liked).

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 Nature really is wonderful, but it is all too easy to take it for granted….I firmly believe that global warming is happening – every gardener has already seen the changes in the seasons – but it is so easy for us all to ignore and pretend it isn’t happening…..I know a lot of people think that it is a problem that just the goverment should be dealing with and yes I do think they should be doing more… however if we all did our own little bit e.g use our cars less, buy less ‘stuff’, recycle where possible, eat less meat, be mindful about using electricity, etc. then maybe it would make a difference.

I realise people won’t agree with me and I know how hard it is when you have children / teenagers in the house wanting ‘this’ and ‘that’, but every little bit we do (even the smallest things) will all add up.

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This week in the garden:

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This week I finally got around to using the extra comfrey feed that I made last year.  I never got around to using it as I still had some left over from the first batch that I had made last summer.

I really expected it to stink as it had been there since last year, but amzingly it wasn’t too bad:

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I strained it through and old rag and I managed to get three bottles of comfrey feed to use on my fruit and flowers around the garden, as it is so high in potash.  It is particularly brilliant for tomatoes.

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As my comfrey is still growing well, I started another bucket of comfrey tea off.  It only takes a couple of weeks to make, though I do tend to leave it stewing until it is needed:

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“To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin.

To use it I put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill it with water and give it a good mix”

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This week I noticed that my runner beans were flowering and they look very pretty.  However, I also noticed that they had climbed to the top of their supports, so I chopped the top of each plant off:

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By nipping off the top of each plant, they will become bushier and produce more beans lower down.

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Now that I had harvested my last spring cabbage, I decided to plant my curly kale seedlings….but first I decided to give the area a quick weed and remove the yellow leaves from the cabbages under the same net.  The yellowing leaves can harbor pests and diseases so it is always a good idea to remove them every so often:

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Incidentally the cabbages are growing well this year, probably to do with all the rain we have had:

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After this I raked in some blood, fish and bone and then planted three curly kale plants that I had grown from seed.  Hopefully if the plants grow ok then three plants will be enough for us over winter:

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I also tied up my jeruselum artichokes as one of them had fallen down……they are planted in a bottemless deep pot, to stop them from spreading and it seems to be working:

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Another job I finally got around to doing was to ‘prick out’ my wallflowers that I sowed a few weeks ago (they really should have been done by now).

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If you look really closely at the photo on the right, you will see tiny holes on the leaves…..these holes are made by the flea beetle….

“The adult flea beetle eats the leaves of most brassica’s (including wallflowers) and their larvae will eat the plant roots.

Bad infestations can kill the plants, however this is unusual.  I have found that seedlings are more suseptable to flea beatles, so if my plants come under attack I feed them regularly with a seaweed fertliser until they grow bigger and stronger.

In my experience the flea beetle will set back your seedlings, but it is very rare they don’t recover with a bit of care”

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I also transplanted the fox gloves I sowed a month or two ago, into bigger pots to grow on:

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  Foxgloves (digitalis) and wall flowers are both biennial plants, which simply means they grow one year and flower the next and then die.  When my plants are big enough in autumn I will plant them in the ground where they will hopefully give me a good display next year.

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Another job I did this week was to repair a bare spot on my lawn.  I raked over the area and then spread some grass seed that I had already mixed with compost.  I then covered it with my heavy plastic propagator lid to protect it from Judy (our dog) and I have made sure it has been well watered.

Hopefully the grass will grow well:

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I have also continued to tie up my outdoor tomato plants:

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And I have continued to dead head all the old flowers around my garden, so they produce lots more new flowers:

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This weeks harvest:

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The strawberries are doing well considering it is their first year (I ignore the books and don’t remove the flowers the first year and I have always had good crops).  I have had two harvests this week:

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The courgettes have finally decided to grow and I have picked two from my two plants this week:

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And I am still picking broad beans from the plants I sowed in January:

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I noticed that some of the pods were suffering from ‘Chocolate spot’, but the beans were fine inside:

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“Chocolate spot is a fungus that only affects broadbeans.  It leaves red-brown spots on the plants and the pods.  It usually affects plants in damp humid conditions, so if you have space you could put your plants further apart so air can circulate around.

In my experience chocolate spot rarely affects the beans inside the pods, so I actually ignore it and don’t do anything except give the plants a liquid seaweed feed to help them along”

I froze my broad beans to use over the winter when there isn’t too much around.  I always blanch them and then open freeze them on a tray until they are frozen….then I put them into a freezer bag:

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I have also been harvesting my peas.  I have been picking my dwarf peas and my climbing tall peas (which are an old fashioned variety called ‘peashooter’).  All my peas have done well this year and there are lots more still growing:

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It always amazes me that a whole basket of pea pods produce so few peas….but the peas are so sweet and delicious I can’t help growing them each year!

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My eldest daughter and Mr Thrift helped me to pick the pods this year and remove the peas…….I so love my family helping as it is a time we also chat about ‘this and that’ and laugh together.  I hope my daughters remember these time fondly when they are older.

I froze the peas in the same way I froze the broad beans….but I bet the peas won’t last until winter as we all love them!

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Frozen broadbeans & peas

I didn’t want to waste the pea pods so I made a ‘pea pod soup’, which my daughter loves.  You can find the recipe here

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I used rapeseed oil this time instead of olive oil, which made a darker soup…..it tasted the same but didn’t look quite so appertising so I will use olive oil again next time:

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This week I have noticed:

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This week i have noticed my first raspberry on my ‘autumn’ raspberries (not sure why this one decided to grow early):

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My first mangetout are ready to pick (my youngest daughter has already spotted this and has been picking and eating them raw this week):

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My ‘mini’ pumpkin plants are covering the ground around my sweetcorn well – this keeps weeds down and the moisture won’t evapourate as quick if we get any more hot days:

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The dahlia tubers that I grew from seed last year and then overwintered in our brick outhouse, are starting to flower:

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And finally this week, I have noticed that the garden has lots of different types of bees and hoverflies visiting and this week I have spotted two different little frogs:

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This is a wonderful site to me as it shows me that my organic gardening methods are working and the beneficial insects are now coming to my garden, helping my garden to become more and more productive by polinating my crops and eating the pests, such as slugs and snails etc.

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Thank you for reading my blog this week.

I will be decorating our bedroom over the next week or two, so I have decided to take a two week break from my blog….I hope you don’t mind.

However I will be back on the 5th August as usual.

Have a great weekend.

XXX

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How To Avoid The Pea Moth & How to Harden Off Plants

I wanted to start today by saying a big ‘thank you’ to everyone that reads my blog and for all the lovely comments I receive each week.  It really is the comments that spur me on to continue writing.

Things changed in the ‘Thrift’ household when I gave my four allotments up last year, however your comments gave me the confidence to continue blogging about my new ‘kitchen garden’.

My blog will never win awards, but as long as people are reading and enjoying it, I will continue to write.

Thank you.

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This Week:

The weather has gone from one extreme to the other over the last week or so….from hail and snow to hot, sunny days.  On Sunday morning I walked my dog early to avoid the heat and even then it was warm enough to walk around in short sleeves:

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I always think the park looks beautiful in the early morning and I love to hear the birds sing at this time of the day…. they sing so loudly, as though they are excited about the day ahead.

I noticed the bluebells looking stunning in the dabbled shade under the trees and the ‘Cytisus scoparius’ (common broom) looking equally as impressive, in amongst the hawthorns that are in blossom at the moment:

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I felt blessed to be walking around the park at this time of day on my own, as it felt magical.  I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be there and have the time to stop and enjoy it.

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However the park looked completely different on Wednesday after twenty four hours of rain, but it still looked beautiful:

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In My Garden This Week:

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As it has been warm this week I decided it was time to start to ‘harden off’ some of my frost tender plants that have been sitting in my greenhouse, by moving them in my colder ‘mini greenhouses’.

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“Hardening off” your 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) Put your plants outside for an hour or two for the first day and then gradually increase the time they spend outside each day afterwards.

The RHS suggest that hardening off plants properly takes approximately two to three weeks.

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This week I also started to put some of my homegrown bedding plants into pots so they can grow on and look pretty in the summer.  I used marigolds and dwarf dahlias:

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I also made up a couple of hanging baskets with the cherry tomato plants that I grew from seed:

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As with everything else, I will harden them off gradually and I will be bringing them back inside my greenhouse every night until all the risk of frost has passed.  This is usually the end of May in Leicester, however I am still very careful to watch the weather forecast even then, as a few years ago I lost all  of my outdoor tomato plants at my allotment in the first week of June!

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This week I removed the glass from my climbing peas that I planted out in April, as they are now growing well:

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I tied some garden string around them to give a bit of support to help them climb.  I also draped some environmesh over the plants to stop the birds from eating them and give a bit of protection fron the pea moth (though I didn’t have quite enough to cover the sides, but it worked well like this last year):

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 “Adult pea moths lays their eggs in May, June and July on pea plants.  Their caterpillars feed on the seeds that develop inside the pea pods and then drop to the ground in late summer to pupate……this is a good reason to rotate your pea crops each year.

You can reduce the damage of the pea moth by covering your plants with environmesh or fleece”

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The tomatoes that I planted in my greenhouse are growing well now and I am continually ‘pinching off’ the side shoots that are appearing between the main stems and leaves….you can see in the before and after photos below:

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The seeds that I sowed last week have started to germinate and I have moved them from my kitchen into my greenhouse to ‘grow on’ for a week or two before I also start to ‘harden them off’ ready to plant later this month:

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I noticed this week that the first geraniums are starting to bloom in my hanging baskets:

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And elsewhere in the garden the dwarf wallflowers that I sowed last year are giving a good display….

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….together with the two dicentras (bleeding hearts) that I replanted after finding them growing recently in my border (though I haven’t a clue how they got there):

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 And finally in my garden my Azalea is beginning to flower.  My dad gave this plant to me when it was tiny – it came ‘free’ with some plants he ordered and he didn’t want it.  Over the last few years it has really flowered well:

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This Week In The Home:

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There is not much to tell you about this week except I have spent time altering the length of a new pair of curtains that my dad brought for his front room……unfortunately they were fifteen inches too long!…. (I’m not sure why he decided to buy this length of curtain).

After I altered them I decided to ring around a couple of well known shops to see how much they would charge for altering curtain lengths, just out of curiosity……I was quoted £35 by one and £40 by another!  It’s amazing how much you can save by learning a few basic sewing skills.

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After altering the curtains I took them to my dad’s home and hung them up for him….but unfortunately they weren’t really wide enough either (which I didn’t realise before as dad had given me the measurements).  This meant I couldn’t gather them up very much at the top, but I did my best.  However, they didn’t look too bad in the end and dad seemed very pleased with them …. and that is all that matters!

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That’s it for today.  Thank you for reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.  Have a great week!

An Amazing Night For ‘The Blues’ & Potting On

Well I can only say that Monday night was amazing for Leicester, which is where I live ….. Mark Selby from Leicester, won his second World Snooker Championship and Spurs and Chelsea drew 2-2, which meant that Leicester City Football club were now ‘CHAMPIONS OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE’ (I never thought I would write that sentence on my blog).

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My family are big Leicester city supporters and Mr Thrift and my brother-in-law take my 85 year old dad and stepmum to all the home matches.  I also used to be a season ticket holder before our girls were born, in fact I still went to watch them when I was heavily pregant and I couldn’t fit through the turnstyles any longer and had to use the disabled entrance!

So early the next day we decorated the windows of our house with flags and posters.

The BBC news reported that on Monday evening the streets of Leicester were full of fans celebrating and from the minute the whistle blew to confirm LCFC were champions, I could hear people shouting “champions” and cars ‘hooting their horns’ into the early hours of the morning.

Myself and Mr Thift went down to the stadium the next day and there were still hundreds of people there celebrating, together with numerous TV cameras from around the world:

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We also met a ‘Vardy’ look-alike and had blue ice creams while we were there.

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  The atmosphere in Leicester at the moment is amazing (especially as this is all so soon after discovering Richard III underneath a Leicester city car park last year). 

We are a multicultural city and every race and religion are celebrating together, as we are all so very proud to live in our city! 

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In my garden this week:

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The weather has gone from snow and hail showers to beautiful warm days and the Spring flowers are still looking stunning in my garden:

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I started the week by planting some spring onions around my tomato plants in my greenhouse.  I am determined to use every single space in my garden possible to grow as many things as I can.

I started the spring onions in modules a few weeks ago as I find they germinate and grow better this way.  I put a pinch of seed in each module, but I don’t thin the seeds out as the onions will grow happily together and when I harvest them I pull up a ‘bunch’ at a time:

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I also planted three more tomato plants in the greenhouse and sowed some radish in between them.  I added some marigolds that I had grown from seed, (marigolds emit a strong odour that repels greenfly and blackfly and they will also add colour to my greenhouse):

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I continued to plant peas this week.  I planted the rest of my climbing peas against our outhouse wall:

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And some dwarf peas in the new area of my garden that I created last autumn:

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Also I found a small, empty spot that I had forgotten about, so I planted the remainder of my sweet peas here in a pot.  I will be dotting flowers all around my garden in the next few weeks, to attract as many beneficial insects as possible:

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I have also been potting up some of my plants that have grown too big for their pots, but it is too early to plant them out (because there is still a risk of frost in my area until at least the end of this month).  I know they have grown too big for their pots as their roots have begun to grow out of the bottom:

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I have repotted my tegetes, antirrhinums, marigolds, thyme, chervil, dill, sage, oregano and my remaining greenhouse tomatoes.  I have grown all of these plants from seed, which I think has saved me a lot of money over all and I also enjoy growing things from seed too.

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As I was potting my tomato plants up I noticed that there were side shoots growing on the plants, so I ‘nipped’ them off using my finger and thumb.  You can tell which the side shoots are, as they always grow between the main stem and a leaf:

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I will be continually ‘nipping’ off the side shoots on all my tomatoes as they grow, as these sideshoots are unproductive and take energy from the main plant.

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I also sowed some more seeds again this week…..I started with some mangetout as my youngest daughter and Mr Thrift LOVE these fried in a bit of butter.  Again, I used guttering to sow them into and I will keep them in my mini greenhouse until they germinate, as I seem to get a better germination rate this way:

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I also sowed some runnerbeans (for me, my mother-in-law and my dad), some frenchbeans (for me and my mother-in-law), outdoor cucumbers, kale, spring onions, sweetcorn, coriander, lettuce, beetroot, nasturtiums (to grow around my runnerbeans to attact the blackfly away from them) and wallflowers ready for next Spring.

All of these seeds are sitting inside our kitchen waiting to germinate, as unfortunately my greenhouse is bursting at the seams now as you can see below:

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The last gardening job I did this week was to cover up the gravel board that broke when our fence blew down in November last year in front of our grass.  Unfortunately when our kind neighbour fixed the fence for us, he left this board broken (I’m not sure why but I guess it would have been too hard to replace it).

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As the broken board was bowed I couldn’t just put a new gravel board in front of the broken one, so I brought a log roll to cover it up and I think it has done it’s job well:

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In the home this week:

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At home this week I have brought back one of my old routines of baking bread rolls at the weekends for the week ahead:

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I then made some garlic bread for tea with the rolls I baked and my stored garlic.  I also made some extra to freeze for another time.  I made the garlic butter and spread it onto the rolls and then froze the rolls.  When I need garlic bread for tea, I will take out the frozen rolls that I need and cook them in foil in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, gas 6 / 200C / 400F.

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I made a big batch of blackberry cordial as well (as my youngest daughter loves it and has been asking me to make it for months).  As my daughter is the only one that drinks it, I separated it into small usuable quanties and put it into the freezer, so I can take it out when I need it and then dilute it with water – this way it won’t get wasted:

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And finally I made some little fairy cakes with sultana’s – some to eat and some to freeze for another time:

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This week we have been having some lovely salads, using lettuce leaves and radishes from my greenhouse and chives from the garden:

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As I am being more organised I remembered to add defrosted sweetcorn and beetroot that I grew last year and froze.  I still have lots left in my freezer, so I must keep using it:

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And finally I added coriander that I have been growing on my kitchen windowsill:

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And the salads have been tasting wonderful:

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This week I also starting picking a bit of rhubarb and stewing it for my breakfast.  I’ve added it to porridge, sultana’s and greek yoghurt and it really tasted nice:

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Incidently, a lot of people think you can’t compost rhubarb leaves as they are poisonous….but you CAN compost them, as after a few months in your compost heap, the toxin level will have dropped so low that it won’t pose a threat:

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During the last week:

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My sister and I took my mum out for ‘afternoon tea’ as it was her 85th birthday.  The tea room was in Syston and it cost us £9.95 each.  The tea room was beautifully decorated as you can see if you click on the link here.

My sister had a cake stand with dairy free goodies (as she is dairy intolerant) and my mum and I shared the one in the photograph below.  There was so much that they wrapped up the chocolate cakes so we could take them home…..it was delicious!

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Finally this week I took some plants to my nephew and his family to help him out, as he has made some deep raised beds and a coldframe out of wood for his garden.  He had done a really grand job on them and they look great.  He is in the process of growing his vegetables from seed and hopefully, my adoreable great nephews will get the gardening bug too:

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I have had some lovely times this week and to round it off, yesterday as I walked my dog in Bradgate Park I heard a ‘Cockoo’ for the first time in my life (they are quite rare birds now).  Recently I also heard a woodpecker in our local park for the first time too….so Judy is bringing more unexpected delights into my life everyday and I am so glad we adopted her from the RSPCA.

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Judy with her LCFC football shirt on

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Well that’s it for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

 

Planting Potatoes, Peas And More….

Last weekend the weather was very strange and Linda Darby left a comment on my blog to say they had even had snow in Derbyshire.  Snow isn’t unheard of in April, but it is unusual.

Here in Leicester we had hail stones.  Unfortunately at the time myself and Mr Thrift were mulching around my mother-in-laws roses with greenwaste compost, so we had to stop what we were doing and wait for it to pass:

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Incidentally as there were lots of annual weed seeds germinating in the beds, I laid sheets of newspaper between the roses and put the mulch on top…..this will kill the small annual weed seedlings without having to pull them all up, so it saved alot of time:

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This week I went for the monthly dog walk in Bradgate park with our trainer Steven Havers.  Unfortunately this is the last walk in Bradgate Park as the walk is being relocated to Switherland Woods next month.

The Bradgate Park Trust reported this week they have now brought in a new sets of rules regarding dogs in the park, because people have been acting irresponsibly in Bradgate Park recently.  On their website it says…..

“Incidents have included parents filming children chasing the deer, dogs chasing the deer, fights between dogs, dogs bothering people, mountain bikers riding off permitted paths, as well as dogs killing wild birds.  In addition dog poo bags have been left hanging in trees and vandalism recently occurred over night in areas where the Trust’s rangers have been improving habitats and facilities”

Reading this made me extremely sad and I am amazed that people think that it is acceptable to treat the park and it’s wildlife in this way!

The ranger that took us around the park this week together with the dog trainer, told us that the number of deer calves is significantly reduced due to this, which is terrible.

Deer in the distance lying down

Deer in the distance lying down

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Castle Gardens:

 As I have said previously there are lots of places on our doorstep that we walk past frequently without even noticing how beautiful they are, or how they change in the different seasons.

This week I visited Castle Gardens, which is just five minutes from the clock tower in the city centre and I was amazed at how beautiful it was….again Leicester City Council should be very proud of their parks department:

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Everyone that walked past me seemed to be in a rush missing the beauty I was seeing.  Some walked along talking on the phone and others were listening to music through their headphones….I think this was such a shame as they were missing the wonderful birdsong that I could hear.

I honestly believe that when people sit at the ‘pearly gates’ they won’t be wishing that they had worked more, rushed more or spent more money on material things…..I think they will be wishing they had slowed down more and enjoyed the things that life can offer for free.

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Leisure  – By William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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This Week In My Garden:

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This week I have been planting my potatoes.  I have planted my usual ‘Marfona’ which are white second earlies and ‘Desiree’ which are a red late main crop.

Over the years I have tried lots of different ways of planting potatoes, but I have found that speading manure / compost over the bed in winter and then digging a trench and using a bulb planter when planting the potatoes works the best for me.  This way I can plant them deep and I only usually have to earth them up once.

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Amazingly, as I was digging my trenches I still found lots of rubble (though I dug the beds well last year) and I even found a big blue brick!

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This week my parsnips germinated.  As soon as the seed leaves appeared above the compost in the kitchen rolls, I moved them outside into my mini greehouse for a few days.

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I then made holes in the ground that were deep enough for the kitchen rolls.  I did this by banging an old piece of guttering pipe into the ground and then planted the kitchen roll into it, making sure there were no gaps between the soil.

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I then watered them to settle the soil around the tubes making sure there wasn’t any of the cardboard tubes showing above the soil (as this acts like a wick and dries the compost out in the kitchen roll).

Then I put mini-cloches made out of ‘pop’ bottles over them to give a bit of protection from the weather and slugs (I use old sticks inserted into the bottles to stop them from blowing away):

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This week I have also been planting my climbing peas.  They are a variety called ‘Peashooter’ which I have been growing for quite a few years now.

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As with all my crops, I  raked in some blood fish and bone a couple of weeks before.

I put up some pea and bean netting using canes and planted the peas.  Last year I grew my peas facing east to west, however the peas at the back didn’t do so well due to the shade from the peas in front, so this year I am growing them facing south to north in the hope they will do better:

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I have given the peas a bit of protection from the weather and birds using old panes of glass that I brought back from my allotment when I gave it up.

You can also see in the photo below that I put weed suppressant in between the peas so it helps to cut down the weeding, where it is awkward to hoe:

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I have continues to deadhead my daffodils this week and nearly all of them have finished flowering for another year, which is sad as they are my favourite flowers….however there is so much more to look forward to in the garden now the weather is warming up.

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We have eaten our first ‘cut and come again’ salads in my greenhouse and today I have noticed that my first radish of the year are ready to eat:

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And the ‘lollo rossa’ lettuce which is growing under glass outside is ready for me to pick the odd few leaves to add to our salads.

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Also the chives I brought back from my allotment in January 2015 are doing brilliantly sitting along my main path and I am picking them to add to every salad we have:

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Also the rhubarb I transplanted from my allotment in Jauary 2015 is also doing well.  I will be picking it sparingly this year so each plant builds up it’s roots system ready for normal harvesting from next year.

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It’s taken me over a year to get used to my small kitchen garden instead of my four allotments.  Finally I am beginning to enjoy working in it, instead of constantly thinking about what I would have been doing at my allotment.

I have had moments during this month where I can honestly say it has been sheer bliss working in my garden, whilst Judy (my dog) has basked quietly in the sun.  One big advantage is I can nip out when I have five minuites to spare and finish a job, deadhead, weed etc. and if I want I can stay out until the sun goes down and the moon shines….. and once again I have felt happy to be alive in my garden, which is how I used to feel at my allotment!

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

Have a great week!

A Good Harvest So Far (Dispite My Strawberries)

Before I start today I wanted to remind anyone that is interested, that my usual monthly blog post of

‘What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In August’ can be found here.

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

I hope it helps someone out there.

A 'surprise' primrose growing this week in my kitchen garden.....the dull weather has probably been confusing it!

A ‘surprise’ primrose found growing this week in my kitchen garden…..the dull weather has probably been confusing it!

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I took the decision to pull up my strawberry bed.  I transplanted these strawberries from my allotment back in January and they have failed miserably.  I planted them in a raised bed (brought back from my allotment) and filled it with all the compost from my black darlek bins at my allotment before I handed the keys back.

The strawberry plants seemed to be doing well and produced lots of lush green foliage.  I gave them a dose of potash in spring and have been watering them well, but there has been no sign of flowers or strawberries at all (though I did cover them with a net just in case to stop the birds):

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I have two theories as to why they haven’t done very well.  The first is to do with my compost…..if it was especially high in nitrogen then this would produce lush growth rather than fruit, so this may have happened and the second theory is to do with the variety.

At my allotment I had standard starwberries that produced fruit in June and I also had early varieties and a late variety.  The early and late varieties were great for a few extra berries when I wasn’t expecting them, but never produced anything like my standard summer strawberries did….and I think I brought my late variety of strawberries home by mistake (as I was rushing to bring as much home as possible before I needed to hand my keys in).

So I think the fact that my compost was too rich in nitrogen together with the fact they are a late variety, has caused the lack of fruit…….but this won’t do in my small kitchen garden!

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So yesterday I pulled all the strawberry plants up and decided to rethink this area.  I will plant some more strawberries in a different place next year (though I’m not sure where yet).

Amazingly I did actually find three little strawberries which confirmed my theory of the plants being a late variety:

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In the mean time I will be sowing some seeds here next week, so I sprinkled some blood, fish and bone over the area.

I also removed the netting in front of the raised bed which had my mangetout growing up it and I cut back the old mangetout.  I left the roots of the mangetout in the ground, as the root nodules will add nitrogen to the soil ready for my next crop (whatever this will be, as I have to revamp this whole area).  I also found a few mangetout ready to eat, that I missed:

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The strawberry bed and mangetout was at the front of my kitchen garden as this was an extra bit that I decided to use as an after thought.  In the remaining front area I have sweetcorn and tomato plants growing well, but after the harvest is complete, I will be digging this area over and incorporating it into my crop rotation plan….somehow.  At the moment though, the weed suppressant is killing the grass underneath:

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This week in my kitchen garden I finally got around to removing the mini cloches (half pop bottles) that were protecting the lettuces I planted before I went on holiday.  The plants were quite tiny when I first transplanted them into the ground, but I must admit I did leave them in the bottles for too long as I kept forgetting about them….but I’m sure they will be fine.

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I covered them with a net to stop the birds from eating them and I have been on slug watch ever since as there seems to be loads in this garden:

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Another job I did this week was to dig up my onions and garlic.

I planted my onions quite close together to pack in as many as possible….. I knew because of this my onions would be smaller than the onions I used to grow at my allotment where space wasn’t a problem, but I have got to say I have been pleasently surprised at the size of them.  Some are small, but a lot are a decent size:

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I have left them drying in my mini greenhouse:

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Unfortunately my garlic wasn’t as good though as it was very, very small.  I’m sure this is due to me planting them too late as I just wasn’t organised this year.  I have decided to try planting my garlic in pots in my greenhouse this coming autumn, ready for planting out in spring……maybe I will have better success this way.

I have left the garlic to dry in my mini greenhouse too and I will still use it for cooking dispite it’s size.

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“There are no gardening mistakes….just experiments”

Janet Kilburn Phillips

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Another job this week was to tie my outdoor cucumbers up as they are finally growing, after all of the dull weather we have been having.  I was really pleased to see a cucumber growing….if the sun starts to shine maybe I’ll have more:

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I have also continued to tie up my tomatoes as they grow and I am pleased to say my outdoor tomatoes are beginning to turn red…..I am so excited!  These are a variety called ‘Outdoor girl’, which do ripen early……this way I get a good crop before the dreaded ‘tomato blight‘ hits.

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The flowers in my garden are looking nice now and I have been deadheading them as soon as the flowers fade.  The sweetpeas in particular need the seed heads removing every day, so they keep producing new flowers, though I do always seem to miss one or two:

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Though I have no where near as many flowers as I used to have at my allotment, I do have a few to pick and the sweetpeas especially smell beautiful as I walk in and out of my front door:

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I have been harvesting some other vegetables this week too.

I have continued to pick salads, spring onions and curly kale this week, but I have also picked french beans, kohl rabi and my first runner beans.  My beetroot was also ready too, and I am cooking it whilst writing my blog today.  I will then be pickling it as we love to eat it this way:

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I have found that because I have less of everything in my kitchen garden than I did at my allotment, I really appriciate what I do have and look forward to harvesting things far more than before:

My perpetual spinach will soon be ready for a few leaves to be picked and I can’t wait for my cabbages to be ready….and they are not far off:

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The final thing I have picked this week is ‘lavender’.  I have one plant in a pot and it has produced a small bunch for me:

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I am going to use it to make some ‘lavender cakes’ which are just delightful at this time of year (and easy to make).  Below are some lavender cakes I made a couple of years ago.  The recipe is here.

People do tend to turn their noses up when you tell them the cakes have lavender in, but in actual fact their is just a hint of lavender in the taste, which makes them nice (though I don’t eat the lavender on the top that I use as decoration).

I must say, I do miss the lavender I grew at my allotment as it really smelt good at this time of year when I brushed past it and it looked so very beautiful edging my paths.  It was also good at encouraging all those wonderful beneficial insects to my plot…..maybe I could fit more somewhere next year in my garden?

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So over all the kitchen garden is producing well.  I will be making some changes in the autumn when I look back and see what has and hasn’t worked, but for now I am just enjoying what I have.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a good week!

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A Holiday, Mildew & Blackfly Results

Last week we went on holiday, however before we went I had a few jobs to do in the garden:

I started by tying up my tomatoes once again and ‘nipping’ off the side shoots and then I picked the rest of my climbing peas and froze them.  These are a variety called ‘Peashooter’ which I have been growing for years now.  I always grow them from seeds I have saved, but I still have hundreds of left over seeds from last year so I don’t need to save any this year.

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In the past when I had loads of room at my allotment, I would leave the climbing peas until I had time to remove them and then I would simply chop the stalks and leave the roots in the ground to rot over winter as the root nodules add nitrogen into the soil ready for the next crop.

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Unfortunately, space is an issue now and I needed to get another crop into the ground so I pulled up the peas and the broadbeans that were in front of them and added the whole plants (roots and all) into my compost bin.  This way the nitrogen will still be added to my soil when I spread the compost when it is ready:

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After adding some blood, fish and bone to the soil I then planted some lettuce and perpetual spinach that I had grown from seed.  I was worried that the slugs would eat them as they were so small, so I covered them with plastic bottles while we were away:

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I also set up my watering system so all the plants that I have in pots get a daily watering.  Unfortunately I don’t have anyone that I can ask to water my plants so this way I can go away without my plants dying.  I have been using this watering system for a few years now and it works well, though it does take quite some time to set up each year, as I have so many pots to water:

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Our Holiday:

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We went to Scarborough again for seven nights as we love it there.  We booked the holiday last year (before we decided to get a dog) and got a bargain family room with breakfast, in a Travelodge for just £363.65.  When we got there we paid an extra £20 for our dog too.

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I don’t know if you remember, we went to Scarborough in February as well for three nights and it was horrendous with Judy, (our rescue dog) as she was awful with other dogs and we were like ‘ninja’s’ running in and out of the travelodge trying to avoid dogs to stop her reacting.  Even on the beach she was a nightmare going mad, barking and lungeing even if she heard a dog barking at the other end of the beach!….I think this was our lowest moment with Judy.

So after just eleven weeks of training with ‘Havers Dog Behaviours’ we decided to go to Scarborough again on another prebooked holiday…..we felt it couldn’t possibly be any worse than our February holiday after all.

I am very happy to tell you that it was so very different and we had a fantastic time.  She still reacts to some dogs on leads, but she is fine with nearly all dogs that approach her off-lead now and I even had the confidence to take her muzzle off after the first day (which is something I have been doing in our training classes).  Judy even made friends with the local dogs on the beach which was amazing:

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She still gets a bit anxious when there are lots of people about, so we walked her when the sea was out so there was more space.

  One day we walked over a small hill right at the other end of the beach and found a beautiful area, that only the locals seemed to know about.  There were beautiful wild flowers growing on the hill:

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Over the other side of the hill we found a small bay with lots of rock pools too.  It really was beautiful:

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We met a man who was collecting crabs and he explained that he catches the ones that are just about to break out of their old shells and uses them for fishing (apparently they are easier to get out of their shells when they are at this stage):

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We also spent a couple of days visiting a beach in Fraisethorpe, near Bridlington.  It is a very large, quiet beach so we took our chairs and windbreak there and had a lovely time, paddling in the sea and walking with Judy:

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What was unusual about this beach was there were some concrete boxes in the sand that I understand were once millatary ‘look-out’ posts that stood on the cliff side…..as time has past the cliffs have erroded and the concrete boxes have fallen into the sea:

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I also noticed the small cliffs also had holes in them which apparently are used by Sand Martins to nest in:

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The beach was beautiful and what was even nicer was there were no amusemnets, fish and chips or ‘tack’ shops around…..It really was the Yorkshire coast at it’s best and I would love to go back there one day.

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Back home:

When we came home everything was ok in my garden, except my courgette plant had developed ‘mildew’ on it’s leaves:

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(Mildrew is a white powdery fungus that is found on the leaves.  You can read about it here on the RHS website).

I removed the affected leaves and gave the soil a really good watering.  I suspect my watering system should have been on a little bit longer each day, but I’m sure it will be ok (dry soil can cause mildrew).

The other courgette plant I had was fine and incidentally the black fly was nearly all gone after using the black fly brew a couple of times before we went on holiday.  So I think the black fly brew was a success!

(You can read about the black fly brew here).

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I then found that the cucumbers in my greenhouse had developed whitefly, so I decided to try the spray out on these too…..I have every faith that the spray will work, though it took my breath away spraying inside the greenhouse as it stinks!

I will let you know the results.

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I also came home to a few tomatoes, courgettes and a our first blueberries of the year:

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After a few days home I had a big sort out of my freezers to see what I food I have left in them and I found some sweetcorn that needed to be eaten:

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And believe it or not I found some grated courgette from last year, ready to make Cheesy, Courgette Scones….so I made a batch, much to Mr Thift’s delight:

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The scones are a great way of using up excess courgettes and as I have proved, the grated courgette lasts months in the freezer without even blanching it.

You can find the recipe here:

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Back home in our garden

Back home in our garden

Well that’s enough for now.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog this week.

I will be back again next Friday as usual.

Our Rescue Dog Judy & A Paint Job

My blog is a little bit longer than normal this week …. I hope this is ok with you.

A Bit Of Good News:

A lot of people have been asking about Judy, the rescue dog we brought home in October.

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Her first day home looking very thin!

I have written about her a few times, but for those who don’t know, it was clear from the start that she had a lot of problems and by December she had bitten a dog and we had to contact a behaviourist for help.  We tried training her with treats, clicker training etc. and she had a ‘kalm aid’ in her food and a pheromone diffuser plugged in the house all day long.

We were beginning to think we were getting somewhere and then the next day for no apparent reason she would go backwards again and we were no further forward.  I have shed a lot of tears over this dog and I have been shouted out so many times for not controlling her (even though she was always muzzled and on a lead).

By February our behaviourist suggested we should think about re-homing her as she felt she was in the wrong environment.  However, as a last attempt to help her we decided to take her to the vets for tablets to calm her down, which did help her a lot in the home, but outside she still couldn’t tolerate cars, lorries, bikes, dogs, birds, men in dark clothes or hats etc. etc.

I have got to admit at this stage we found ourselves thinking that we couldn’t do anything to help her and we were devastated.

A 'cheeky girl' found cuddling my daughters teddies

A ‘cheeky girl’ found cuddling my daughters teddies

Then six weeks ago, a wonderful person called ‘Michelle’ from my gardening forum, emailed me to say she had just listened to ‘Steven Havers’ on Radio Leicester and he was a dog trainer / behaviourist and sounded really good.  I rang him and he visited on the 27th April.

I have been taking Judy to his classes each week since and in just five weeks, Judy will now walk along side other dogs on her extendable lead without reacting.  Mr Thrift counted twenty two dogs surrounding her a couple of weeks ago in his class and she wasn’t barking, lunging or taking any notice of them!…It is absolutely incredible to watch.

Previously in the home we had also blocked all our windows with a plastic ‘film’ to give a frosted effect so she couldn’t see out and bark at everything she saw…..this week we have also managed to remove the film and she really doesn’t bark too much at all.

We still have a long way to go, as she isn’t so good on the short lead yet and though she is better with cars she still doesn’t like the lorries and motor bikes and next doors dog is still a big problem for Judy, but we have come an awful long way in a short time.

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 We are very pleased with her progress and I’ve got to say Steven Havers training is brilliant….it is obvious that he has so much experience with dogs and right from the start he said that Judy wanted to learn.  He concentrates on training the ‘owner’ rather than the dog and he uses praise to reward the dog and not food treats.

Hopefully very soon we can also try and wean her off the tablets that the vet gives her.

So thank you Steven for your continued training and advice and thank you ‘Michelle’ for emailing me with his details.

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A Walk In The Park:

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Last Sunday I woke early and took Judy for a walk in Western Park at 6.45am.

The sun was shinning, there was no one around and it was so peaceful.  I felt like I had discovered a place that no one else knew about, it was absolutely magical.  I have never heard the birds sing this beautifully before.

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“In the 19th Century ‘Leicester Corporation’ purchased the land for £30,000 to create a park for the people of the ‘West End’ of Leicester and it is one of the largest parks in the City covering 73 hectares.  The park was opened in 1899”.

Leicester City Council work hard maintaining this park and they have recently put lots of signs around giving interesting information about the wildlife here:

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I have lived in this area for nearly twenty years now and it is only since October (when I have been walking Judy) that I have realised how beautiful the park is and how lucky we are to have it on our door step.

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There is also a 400 year old Oak tree in the park, that is nick named the ‘Old Major’.  I have walked past this tree many times without really taking much notice…..but when I stopped and actually took the time to look at it, it is absolutely magnificient.  My photograph below doesn’t really do the tree justice:

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There are so many beautiful places around me that I have walked past without noticing or never bothered to go and see.  I feel it is time for me to take more notice of the things that are right under my nose and I will write about them as I do.

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare”.

William Henry Davis

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This week in my garden:

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I started by thinning out my kohl rabi and my beetroot.  I used a pair of scissors to just ‘snip off’ the unwanted plants:

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My wall flowers had finally finished flowering, so I dug them up and planted the dwarf peas I was growing in guttering.  They were a bit ‘leggy’ but I’m sure they will be fine.  I am trying to plant in every area possible, so I thought the peas would grow nicely using the chicken wire fence as a support.  All I need to do now is stop Judy from destroying them!

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This week I also planted my french beans and some more lettuces:

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….And gave the area under my bay tree a bit of a tiny up:

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In my home this week:

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At the beginning of the week Mr Thrift was poorly with a viral infection.  When he started to feel a little bit better, I made him a vegetable soup to get him to start eating again.

I had an ’emergency’ bag of mixed vegetables in my freezer that I used and I’m glad to say Mr Thrift enjoyed it.

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(You can find the recipe for the soup here.  I didn’t use all the vegetables in the recipe, I just used the pack of frozen vegetables together with potato and onions).

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In the home this week I also made a big batch of pasta sauce to freeze.  I love the days when I can take something out of my freezer, defrost it and then just reheat it in the microwave and add it to pasta.

This recipe also doubles up as a pizza sauce too.

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I had also ran out of my dishwasher liquid, so I made some more.  I make it with ‘soup nuts’ and it saves me a lot of money in the long run.

You can find the recipe here.

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As you have probably guessed, I struggle to sit still and I like to keep myself busy….On Sunday I mentioned to Mr Thrift that our bathroom looked awful.  I gave it a lick of paint when we first moved into our house thirteen years ago and it hasn’t really been touched since then. The plan has always been to have a new bathroom suit as the bath, sink and tiles are really old and have seen better days, but we certainly can’t afford this for a very long time.

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Over the years our window blind had also become discoloured in places too:

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…..So on Monday I decided to spruce it up a little by giving it a lick of paint….it actually took two coats in the end, but I was very pleased with the result.

I put up a new blind and changed the light and shower cords, so they looked fresh and new.

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After I put the shelves back up I gave all the families toiletries a good sort out and put them back neatly.

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I then put our shower curtains back up….unfortunately we have to use the curtains to stop any water from going down the side of the bath.  We have tried numerous times to seal between the tiles and the bath, but unfortunately it never works as the bath is slightly too far away from the wall!…so we have resorted in lining the shower area with two large shower curtains.  Unfortunately this area doesn’t look good, so I cover it with a ‘nicer’ shower curtain on the outside of the bath:

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Incidentally, you can see in the photo above my handwash.  This is a Marks and Spencer ‘luxury’ hand wash bottle that I refill each time with cheap ‘value’ bubblebath…..no one ever knows and it saves me buying expensive handwash.

So overall, I am very pleased with our bath room.  It still needs ‘gutting’ in the future, but until then it doesn’t look quite as bad:

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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!