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My Harvest & A Freezer Breakdown

I wanted to start my blog today by saying well done to my eldest daughter for her AS level results that she received yesterday.  She has had a very difficult year (which I won’t go into here) but dispite this she achieved a ‘B’ in English language/literacy,  a ‘B’ in psychology and a ‘distinction-star’ in hospitality……..we are extremely proud of her!

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This week I visited Haddon Hall and gardens with my lovely sisters and had a wonderful day out.  This was my eldest sisters Christmas present to us all….it was such a treat!

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The website says:

“Described by Simon Jenkins in “1000 Best Houses” as “the most perfect house to survive from the middle ages”. Set in the heart of the beautiful Peak District National Park, parts of the house date from the 12th Century, sitting like a jewel in its Elizabethan terraced gardens, and overlooking the River Wye.

Film-makers flock to Haddon Hall to use it as a location. The house and grounds have played host to no less than three versions of “Jane Eyre”. Screen credits also include “Elizabeth”, “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “The Princess Bride”, the cult classic movie in which Haddon Hall becomes Prince Humperdinck’s Castle and village”

I enjoyed looking around the house as it was so interesting and the gardens were lovely too:

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They had lavender lining their path in one area and the bees loved it.  It reminded me of the lavender path I used to have at my allotment as it smelt so wonderful as you brushed past it:

(The photo on the left is Haddon Hall and the photo on the right is my old allotment)

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In my kitchen garden this week:

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This week I noticed that my sweet peas are being attacked with greenfly, so I spent a happy half an hour squashing them between my fingers…..as an organic gardener I prefer not to use sprays.

  I think it has been a particularly bad year for aphids this year, so hopefully next year we will have a bumper year for ladybirds, as this usually happens.

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There is some fabulous information and advice on the RHS website regarding aphids here if anyone is interested.

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Everywhere around my kitchen garden seems to be doing well, though the ground has been really dry.  This has caused some of my spring onions to go over a bit quicker than normal, so I pulled them up.  I don’t want to waste them, though I don’t think they are good enough for our salads, so I have decided to pickle them like ‘silver skin pickles’.

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My outdoor cucumbers are growing well now and my leeks and spinach have put on a growth spurt:

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 I also had a surprise this week as I found that a patty pan that I had given up on, is growing.  I put three seeds in my big tub between my two courgettes after my previous sowing in pots didn’t germinate.  Two seeds germinated and the slugs destoyed them and I thought the third seed hadn’t germinated until I found it this week.

I removed a couple of leaves from the courgettes either side of it, to allow the light to get through to the little plant.  It maybe too late to get a harvest of patty pans now, but if we have a mild couple of months I may be lucky:

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This week I dug up the last of my ‘2nd early’ potatoes which were a variety called ‘marfona’ (I still have my ‘desiree’ main crop left in the ground).

At my allotment I would always start to dig up my 2nd early potatoes in July, as I used to plant so many potatoes (early and main crops).  This way I could spread the harvest over July and August as I always found digging up my potatoes such hard work.

Obviously it is really easy in my small kitchen garden, so I have just dug the potatoes when we needed them for a meal and I have got to say I am really surprised and pleased with the size some of them have grown, as they have been in the ground longer than I would normally leave them in:

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In place of the potatoes I decided to grow some green manure.  I gave the soil a good rake and sowed some phacelia.  My seed packet is quite old now so I’m not sure if the seeds will even germinate, but I thought it was worth a try….I will have to wait and see.

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“Phacelia tanacetifolia is good for sowing between March and September and it takes between one and three months to grow depending on growing conditions.  It is a green manure that tolerates most soils.

If you leave phacelia to flower, it is a beautiful lavender colour that the bees absolutely love, which is why I used to grow it in my wildflower area at my old allotment.  The one drawback is that if you leave it to flower it self seeds like mad.  I will chop it down and fork it in before it flowers, so it doesn’t grow and become a weed to me next year”

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I also sowed some seeds in the area where I pulled up my strawberries last week.  I sowed ‘Broccoli raab ’60 days’ which apparently are quick growing broccoli-like shoots that grow on dwarf plants.  I have never grown this before but the seeds were free with a magazine so I thought I would give them a go:

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I also gave my apple and pear trees a summer prune.  I am growing them as cordons so this first prune was to encourage the shape I want the trees to grow into:

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This week I have been harvesting runnerbeans, outdoor tomatoes, frenchbeans, spring onions, potatoes, courgettes, parsley, a few peas and my first red cabbage of the year (that I couldn’t resist picking):

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So overall I am very pleased with the produce my small kitchen garden is producing each week.  Next year I will be looking at ways to increase my harvest and hopefully my fruit bushes will produce more in their second year too.

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This week at home:

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I started the week by making some more laundry liquid.  

Just before our holiday last month I ran out of my homemade laundry liquid and I bought a box of supermarket brand washing powder to tied me over until we got back and this is what I have been using since then.  I must say, I don’t think it washed any better than the laundry liquid I make (and mine is much cheaper) and also, my eldest daughter started to complain that the new wash powder was making her skin itchy!

Next time I will make sure I am more organised and won’t run out of it just before a holiday!

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This week I also cooked and pickled the beetroot that I harvested last week and we are looking forward to eating it soon:

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Finally this week, our old chest freezer unfortunately stopped working.  Thankfully it was the freezer that I just kept my vegetables in and it was only a quarter full.  I have been trying to use up the contents of this freezer for a while so I could switch it off completely and just use the other two freezers that we have.

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I don’t know how long it hadn’t been working for, but everything was half defrosted and there was a puddle at the bottom of the freezer!

So myself and my daughter set about trying to save as much of the half frozen vegetables as possible.

We made a massive pot of tomato pasta / pizza sauce with vegetables to freeze in portions, I cooked lots of the vegetables in my steamer to freeze in portions and then reheat in curries and my daughter made a big pot of creamy, thick, vegetable soup to freeze in portions.  I also filled my slow cooker with vegetables in gravy to again freeze in portions so I could reheat it for a lunchtime meal.  I also cooked the sweetcorn I had left and froze it in portions so I could defrost it and add it to salads:

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Luckily I still had room in my other two freezers for the things we made:

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We managed to use nearly everything in the freezer, so really we were very lucky that hardly anything was wasted….and the soup was delicious!

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

Have a good 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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Planting Leeks, Comfrey Feed & Wallpapering

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 July’ can be found here.

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

I hope it helps someone out there.

My New Kitchen Garden

My New Kitchen Garden

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In My Kitchen Garden This Week:

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This week I planted my leeks in a space where my lettuce and radishes stood last month.

I raked in some blood, fish and bone and I also top dressed the soil with compost as I am growing a second crop so quickly after a previous one.

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I then used my old wooden ‘dibber’ to make holes six inches deep into the soil:

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Then I cut the ends of the roots off each leek.

Previously it was thought that cutting the roots and the top off the leeks would stimulate the roots into growth…. I have read since that it doesn’t really make a difference.  I still cut the roots, as it makes it much easier to push each leek into it’s planting holes.

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I then pushed each leek into the hole I made with the dibber (sometimes it’s easier to twist the leek to get the roots to go down into the hole) and then I just watered each leek.

(You don’t need to back fill the hole with soil, as the water will settle the soil around the roots).

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This week in my kitchen garden I also planted the spring onions I sowed last month.  I am running out of room now and so I decided to use the space in between my fruit bushes (as their roots are still fairly small):

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I also sowed some more lettuce seeds in a very small space, again between my fruit bushes.  The weather has been so dry I watered the drill before I sowed the seed and then just pulled the dry earth back over the seeds.  This stops something called ‘capping’ which happens on a heavy clay soil.  It is when the wet soil on top of the seeds forms a hard ‘crust’ that the seed can not break through as it grows.

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Another job I did was to cut my chives down, now that the flowers (that the bees so loved) have gone over.  This way I will hopefully get another crop of fresh new growth soon:

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I also put some canes into the ground to support my Jeruselum artichokes, as they have a tendancy to fall over.  I also tied some string to the canes as well:

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Comfrey Feed:

The comfrey that I transplanted from the allotment has done really well and this week it is ready to cut down and use.

I chopped it up and put it in a pot, weighed it down with a brick and then just covered the comfrey with water:

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I then put a lid on the pot to stop flies getting into it and I will now leave it for a couple of weeks.

Comfrey feed is a high potash feed, so it is great to use once a week on all fruit and flowering plants.  You can read more about it here.

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To finish off the week I painted my second bench, to match the one I did last week and it’s come up well too.  I also had a general tidy up, putting all my seed trays and pots away:

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Finally, in my kitchen garden this week I noticed that my nastursiums are flowering.  These were found growing in my strawberry patch, so I transplanted them to each end of my runnerbeans.  I love nasturtiums as you can eat the leaves and flowers in salads, but they are also extremely good at attracting blackflies away from my runnerbeans, so I always plant them together:

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At home this week:

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This week I ran out of my kitchen surface cleaner so I made some more.

I use just white distilled vinegar and a few drops of tea tree essential oil.

White vinegar is a great mulitipurpose cleaner and if you add a few drops of Tea Tree oil it then becomes a multipurpose antibacterial cleaner, which is great to use around your kitchen.

You can read all about the wonders of using vinegar for ‘old fashioned’ cleaning here.

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I also decided to rejuvenate our bath towels and flannels as they were looking a bit old, as we have had them quite a while.  There wasn’t really anything wrong with them except they were all different colours and faded….so I brought a washing machine dye and here is the results:

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I was so pleased with them I decided to also buy a dye for my T-shirts that were also faded (but still had lots of wear left in them).  I dyed eight T-shirts all in all and you can see the before and after photo’s here:

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I was very pleased with them and now I don’t need any new T-shirts for this summer.

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This week at home I also cleaned the black mould from the PVC on our bay window:

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The only way I have ever managed to remove the mould is to use a mixture of bicarb and bleach (which I know isn’t an old fashioned method, but it works).  I have tried using lemon juice in the past but it isn’t quite as good.

I simply put some bicarb in an old tub and mix bleach in until it is a thick mixture (not runny) and then I use an old toothbush to thickly plaster it on the mould:

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I leave it for an hour or two and then wash it away using rubber gloves on my hands and this is the result:

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IF YOU DO THIS YOURSELF ALWAYS TEST A SMALL AREA FIRST TO MAKE SURE YOUR PVC ISN’T DAMAGED IN ANY WAY.

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If you remember last week we had the plasterers in to ‘skim’ the walls in our front room and ‘patch up’ our ceiling.  They did a great job on our walls but the ceiling was awful, so I spent a whole afternoon sanding it down!

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I then painted the ceiling, walls and woodwork and then I hung some wall paper on the chimney breast wall.

I love painting, but I’ve only wallpapered the odd easy wall over the years, but I thought I would give it a go.  I watched lots of ‘you tube video’s’ but still I found some of it very tricky (especially around the fireplace).  But I managed it and we think it looks nice and it has saved us paying out for a decorator.

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This room has desparately needed decorating for a long time.  We chose the colour of the wallpaper to go with our ‘charity shop’ three piece suite and we are really pleased with how the room looks now.  We just need a new carpet to finish the room:

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Happy Birthday Blog.

This week I have been writing my blog for three years and I wanted to say a big thank you for your continued support.  I originally only planned to write my blog for one year, but I have had so many lovely comments over the last three years that spurred me on to continue to write.

Thank you so much for reading my blog posts.

I will be back again next Friday as usual.

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Have a good week! 

Farm Visits & Growing Herbs

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

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

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

I hope it helps someone out there.

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

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

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

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

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Out and about during the week:

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

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

We had a lovely lunch too in his cafe.

You can read about the farm here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In my Kitchen Garden:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Herbs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In My Home:

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend!

Seed Sowing & General Garden Jobs

I hope you all had a lovely Easter.  The weather here was beautiful on Easter Monday and we even dug out our BBQ, which is something we haven’t done for an awful long time…..maybe giving up my allotments will bring nice advantages like this.

My Easter Cake

My Easter Cake

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This week I have been seed sowing again.  However I had to make some plant labels first.

I make plant lables by cutting up empty plastic milk bottles and they work a treat:

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I then sowed some spring onions, butternut squash, outdoor tomatoes, melon, basil, coriander, lettuce and parsley.

I keep some of my seeds in the greenhouse which is heated to 10C and some of them inside our house to germinate:

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I also sowed some climbing peas in toilet roll inners.  These are a variety called ‘peashooter’ which are quite expensive to buy, so each year I save some of my own seeds – these are seeds I saved last autumn.  The pea pods grow lovely and big and the peas are beautiful:

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I also sowed my parsnip seeds in kitchen roll tubes.  I sow them this way so I get a good germination rate and lovely straight parsnips…I have tried lots of different ways to grow parsnips and this way is definately the best.

You can read all about growing parsnips this way here if you are interested.

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This week I decided to cover my onions and garlic to avoid the allium leaf miner, which is a relatively new pest in the Midlands.  It attacks all alliums and over the last couple of years it did quite a bit of damage to my onions at my allotment.  The alliums in my back garden may be protected as it’s pretty sheltered here away from the allotment, but as I have lots of enviromesh I thought I may as well cover my onions to protect them, just in case.

You can read all about the allium leaf miner here.

I made the cage for the environmesh exactly the way I used to at the allotment, using canes and bottles:

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This week I also planted some lettuces.  I will keep them under glass until they are a little bit bigger as the nights are still cold at the moment.

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I also planted out the spring onions that I sowed on the 18th March.  I always had problems getting my spring onions to germinate in my heavy clay soil and I found that by putting a few seeds in modules really helps.  I don’t bother to thin the onions out as the bunch will grow happily together until you are ready to pull them up:

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It’s lovely to see more and more things growing in my new kitchen garden.

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Last week I tried to set up my first water butt, but I found it has a leak around the tap.  I fixed the leak last week and now it is finally set up and waiting for rain:

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This week I set up a second water butt next to my shed.  I spotted an old grey piece of guttering hanging from the back of my shed and so I hooked this up to some guttering to make a ‘makeshift’ channel to my waterbutt.  It looks a bit daft, but it will do the job for now:

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Another job I finally got around to doing this week was to sort out the nets I brought back from my allotment.  I measured them and labeled them, so I would know at a glace which one I should use in the future.

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I also washed some of my environmesh and folded it up ready for use:

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I managed to store them all in my storage boxes where I would normally store all my potatoes during the winter:

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Now that my nets had been put away neatly, I was able to start to fill the large containers that I brought home from my old allotment plots.  I put as much rubble as I could in find in the bottom of each pot together with a bit of polystyrene that I found.  This will help with drainage and also reduce the amount of compost that I will need to use to fill each deep pot too.

I used the council green waste compost to half fill the pots (as this is only £2 for a large bag) and I will then buy some compost to top the pots up as this will have more nutrients in than the council green waste compost:

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This week I also thinned the leeks that I sowed last month.  I don’t need too many this year so I will thin them out a bit more in a couple of weeks so I get nice, strong healthy plants.  The leeks are still very small as I only sowed them last month, which is later than I usually do, but I’m sure they will catch up:

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And finally this week I planted some Primroses in my new kitchen garden.  I love these plants as they look so beautiful in Spring with the daffodils, they are good for the bees and the plants grow year after year…..so I think they are a good plant to have in my kitchen garden:

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

I hope you have a good week.

Removing A Conifer And Planting Onions & Garlic

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

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

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October 2014

October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At home this week:

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

You can find the recipe for laundry liquid here.

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

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

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

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

Have a great Easter and a good week!

Introducing Judy Thrift And Some Pumpkin Recipes…

Last week it was half term here and we all went to Portsihead, near Bristol for a few days.  We stayed in a Travelodge and just across the road was a lovely marina, full of boats of all different sizes.

We used Portsihead as a base and spent a day in Bristol and another day in Weston-super-mare and I have got to say we were really lucky with the weather as it was so dry and mild for this time of the year.

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Weston-super-mare

The main reason for a visit to this area was so we could take a trip to a little place call ‘Clevedon’.

I had never heard of this place until a few months ago and it was a lovely, small seaside town with a wonderful pier.  You can read about the pier here if you are interested in finding out more about it.

There was a special reason we visited this pier and that was because my eldest daughter is a massive ‘One Direction’ fan and they recorded the video for one of their songs on this pier, so it made her very happy to tread on the same pier as they did.

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Clevedon really was a beautiful, quiet seaside town…just right for eating an ice cream whilst sitting watching the sailing boats on the sea…

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Introducing Judy:

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Our holiday was lovely but we all couldn’t wait to come home as we had a very special lady coming to live with us…….

I would like to introduce ‘Judy’, our wonderful rescue dog:

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We had been talking about getting a dog for a while now, but had decided to wait until after our October holiday.  However, a couple of weeks ago myself and Mr Thrift decided to go and ask the RSPCA what the proceedure was for re-homing a rescue dog and we both fell in love with this quiet, timid dog wagging it’s tail at us.

This is the photo that was displayed on the RSPCA website

This is the photo of Judy that was displayed on the RSPCA website

Poor Judy had been very frightened when she first came to the kennels at the beginning of October and was also very anxious.  All we know about her is she is a Jack Russell, Terrier Cross that is three years old and her previous owner was poorly and had to go into hospital, so I think the whole experience has been traumatic for her and she is a little bit underweight.

After we found her, I visited her twice a day at the RSPCA and took her for a walk and by day three I sat down and she jumped on my lap for a cuddle and I knew then that she was definately the right dog for us.

My daughters also visited her after school each day to make sure they took to her too.  She didn’t jump up or bark at my daughters when she first met them, she just wagged her tail which was great for my eldest daughter who has always been a bit scared of dogs.

So on the 22nd October we had a home visit from RSPCA (to make sure everything at home was as we said it would be) and last Thursday 23rd October, we brought her home and she has settled really well.

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She is still a bit anxious (especially of men), but she is having a great time with all the attention she is getting from the ‘Thrift’ family and she now jumps up all of us when she wants some ‘fuss’ and barks at passers by.

We all adore her!

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So I’m sorry to say that this week I haven’t been to my allotment, as I am only leaving Judy on her own for very short periods of time so she can get used to it.  But two things I did before our holiday was I added a new compost bin for my perrennial weeds at the back of my plot:

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As usual, I used strong string to tie the pallets together and lined it with old bits of weeds suppressant.

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I also managed to plant my winter onions which were sown in August.  I covered them in environmesh to stop the allium leaf miner laying their eggs at the base of the allium stems (the second generation lay their eggs between September and November).

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At home I had been drying a heritiage bean called ‘Carters Bean’ that I grew this year and this week I took all the dried seeds out of the pods and popped them into an envelope to store / share them ready for next year:

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Halloween

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I couldn’t finish today without mentioning Halloween.  So many pumpkins are carved and the insides are just thrown away, so I thought I would share a few of my favourite pumpkin recipes here with you:

***Don’t forget the pumpkin flesh can be frozen to use another day****

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup….the recipe is here.

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 Pumpkin and Orange Cake….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin Lasange…the recipe is here.

 

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And Finally……

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A Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins Recipe:

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600g self-raising flour

220g soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

300g raisins

2 eggs

400g pumpkin puree

150ml sunflower oil

The zest of 3 oranges

200ml of orange juice

A sprinkling of muscovado sugar for the top of each muffin

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Preheat your oven Gas mark 5 / 375F / 190C

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and sugar into large bowl and stir in the raisins.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and then mix in the pumpkin, oil, orange zest and juice.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until there is no flour visible. There will be still lots of lumps left (this is the secret of good sized muffins.

 

Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and sprinkle each muffin with a little muscavado sugar.

 

Bake for 25 minutes until the cakes are firm to the touch and golden brown.

 

Enjoy!

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And don’t forget, with a little bit of imagination you can make some spooky treats for your children and grandchildren:

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I hope you enjoy some spooky Halloween treats tonight.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

A Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe & My Allotment This Week

Before I start, I don’t usually advertise anything on my blog, but I thought I would make an exception for this:

Transition Leicester are holding a ‘Leicester Green Open Homes And Living’ event….

Their website says “Would you like some ideas about making your home and/or life greener? Come and look around the homes of people who are changing their homes and lives to reduce their carbon footprints and talk to them about what it is like”.

For details on the houses, their availability and features, click here I can imagine it will be a real eye opener.

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What a busy week it has been at the allotment.  Due to all the rain we had last week I have had to work twice as hard to catch up with my planting.

First though, I had to dig up my old spring broccoli and curly kale before I could even start planting:

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I then planted my outdoor cucumbers (burpless tasty green), leaving them under glass to give some protection for a couple weeks as it has been really cold and wet and they do not like these conditions:

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My runner beans and tomatoes were planted out:

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And my sweetcorn, butternut squashes, patty pans and courgettes:

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And more spring onions and lettuces:

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And some more cauliflowers under environmesh and I planted cabbages under bottles as they were small and I wanted to give them a bit of protection from slugs and the cold

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I also planted my leeks that were sown way back in January.  If you haven’t planted leeks before, it is a bit unusual the way they are planted.  You can read how to plant them here.

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I also planted my celeriac, which like plenty of water and they certainly had plenty of rain on Wednesday this week…

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…and I finally got round to planting some flowers- sweetpeas, nasturtiums and tagettes.

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I also planted some nasturtiums around my runner beans as a sacrificial plants.  The blackflies prefer nasturtiums to the beans and so they leave my runner beans alone.

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I also invested in a very large net from ebay this year to stop the pigeons from eating my peas.  I hope to be able to use it for years to come as it wasn’t the cheap sort that you can buy.

A few years ago I didn’t need to net my peas as the birds never bothered with them, but they seem to eat everything these days, including my lettuces which I still find strange.

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Also, I finally got round to nipping the top couple of inches off my broad beans to stop the blackflies as they love the top growth.  The best time to do this is when the first beans start to develop on the plants, but as you can see in the photo below, I was a little bit late on one or two of them, but I’m sure they will be fine.

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Finally at my allotment, I have had loads of people ask me what is wrong with their onions this year and I have said the same thing over and over again….it’s the allium leaf miner, which is a fairly new pest.  You can find information about it here.

My onions have been hit too and I will be covering them with environmesh next year:

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During half term when it was raining nearly all week, it was lovely to have some time to catch up at home.  Especially as my daughters were off school, as I love spending time with them.

One of the things we did was toasting marshmellows over a candle.  I had forgotten how good they taste and they took me back to when I was a Guide (many years ago).

I absolutely love the melted marshmellow taste:

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During the week I also managed to catch up on some long overdue jam making sessions with leftover fruit in my freezer.

I made rhubarb jam and strawberry jam:

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I find jam making quite thereputic and it is so easy to do.

If you haven’t made jam before, you can find a strawberry jam recipe and some jam making tips here if you are interested.

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I also managed to give my drains a bit of a clean  by pouring 1 tablespoon of bi-carbinate of soda down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar.  It bubbles up like a volcano for a few minutes and then I flushed it all down by running the hot tap for a few moments….the result was clean smelling, unblocked drains!

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I was also able to take time to make some nice salads from my polytunnel and some nice meals for the family without rushing….it was such a pleasure:

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The last photo is homemade shortbread, which is one of the simplist recipes I have.  You can find it here.  I use pure margarine as my daughter is lactose intolerant, but you can use normal margarine or butter and they taste even nicer.

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The photo my daughter took as we picked them

The photo my daughter took as we picked my strawberries

This week I made some luxury strawberry ice cream as double cream was on offer at Tesco….and the taste is absolutely delicious!…and yet again so easy to make.

I used my strawberries from the allotment as they are ripening nicely.  These are a very early variety that I planted two years ago:

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Luxury Strawberry Icecream Recipe:

300 grams strawberries

300 ml double cream

140 grams of caster sugar

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Puree the strawberries in a bowl with a hand blender / liquidiser or a fork

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Add the caster sugar and the double cream to the bowl

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Give it all a mix with a spoon until it is all combined

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And add it to your icecream maker to do the hard work

(If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, just put the blended ingrediants into a container and freeze.  Remove from the freezer every 1-2 hours and mash vigourously with a fork to break up the ice crystals)

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As there are no chemicals in the ice cream, the ice cream will be quite hard when you take it out of the freezer to use, so it is better to take it out for fifteen minutes or so before you eat it.

Then enjoy it!

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I actually made double the amount of ice cream and it filled an old two litre plastic ice cream tub and I worked out it cost me just £1.85 to make.  I’ve checked on the Tesco website and the ‘posh’ ice cream is far more expensive than that!

Within an hour of making the ice cream, some of it had disappeared out of the tub….it must have been the ice cream fairies…so beware of the ice cream fairies if you make it too.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again next Friday

My woodland garden this week

My woodland garden this week

Have a good week!

A New Gadget & Blogging Once A Week

At the beginning of the week it was really warm and I decided to take a day off from the allotment.

Mr Thrift very kindly took me to Barnsdale Gardens in Exton, Oakham.  This is where Geoff Hamilton filmed Gardeners World from 1983 until he sadly passed away in 1996.

It was Geoff Hamilton’s series called ‘The Ornamental Kitchen Garden’ that inspired me to have a go at growing vegetables, which has obviously grown into a passion of mine as I now have four allotment plots.

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The gardens were beautiful and so peaceful.

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I particularly enjoyed seeing the gardens that I remember Geoff Hamilton constructing on Gardeners World and it was great to come away with some new ideas.  One such idea was to grow ‘Lady’s mantle’ (Alchemilla mollis) around the base of fruit trees, which will act as a weed suppressant and a mulch to retain moisture around the roots of young trees.  You can see this in the photo below:

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If you are ever passing, the gardens are really worth a visit.

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I had a lovely visit from my nephew at the allotment this week.  He is rather good at photography and he took a photo which I thought I would share with you.  There are quite a few empty beds at the moment waiting for the more tender plants which will be planted at the end of this month, after any risk of frost has passed:

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You can see in the photo above that the lavender hedge that lines one of my paths will soon flower and look beautiful.

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This week I purchased a new gadget to try…. A ‘Bentley patio, paving and decking weed brush’ for £12.99

I get fed up of spending hours on my hands and knees each week weeding in between my paths.  As you know I am an organic gardener and I won’t use weed killers (glyphosate) on my plot.  Therefore I decided to treat myself:

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I didn’t buy the cheapest weed brush I could find, as I wanted to make sure it was a good quality brush that didn’t break after a few uses.

This brush is like magic as the hard wire bristles simply ‘brush away’ the weeds in between your slabs, as you can see in the photographs below.

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Obviously perennial weeds will grow again as the roots are deep below the slabs, but if you brush regularly then even the hardiest perrenial weeds will ‘give up’ growing after a while.

I found this brush particularly good at ‘brushing’ away horsetail (Equisetum arvense) that grows between the slabs outside my polytunnel.

An hours job per week has now turned into a five minute job and I think this brush is worth every penny.

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I have noticed a few things at my plot this week:

The first thing is my oriental poppies have started to flower.  My friend gave me a cutting a few years ago and it seemed to take a long time to become establshed, but last year I had a few flowers and this year it seems to be even better.

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You can read about oriental poppies here on the Gardeners World website.

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Another thing I noticed was a lovely Iris that has popped up in one of my flower beds.  I can’t for the life of me remember planting it, but I shall leave it there as it is beautiful:

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The perennial cornflowers (Centaurea montana) are now flowering in my flower patch, together with the aquiligias.   I always think perennial cornflowers are like ‘marmite’….you either love them or hate them….I love them:

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When I looked, I noticed my strawberries will soon be ready ro ripen:

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And I also noticed that the fruit trees and bushes seem to be doing well.

The golden gages, pears and apples all developing nicely:

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I have also checked the pheromone traps and I can see that the plum moths and codling moths are active, as some have already been ‘lured’ into the traps:

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One sad thing I have noticed this week at my allotment is that I think a few of my onions are suffering from the ‘allium leaf miner’ again.  The tell tale signs are white dots on the foliage and the foliage seems to twist.

I wrote about the allium leaf miner here if anyone is interested.

There is nothing I can do about it now but I think I will have to reassess how I grow my onions next year if there is alot of damage to my crop from this pest.

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This week at my allotment I planted out my runner beans.  I don’t usually plant tender plants out until the end of May, but they were getting a bit big (due to all the hot weather we have had) and I have sheets of glass ready to cover them if we have a late frost.

I also planted nasturtiums in between the runner bean plants as a sacrificial plants.  Blackflies prefer the nasturtiums to the beans, so it keeps the beans clear of the flies.  Also as a bonus, if there are no blackflies around, you can eat the peppery nasturtium leaves and flowers in salads.

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I also prepared the area where I will be planting my tomatoes at the end of this month.  At the end of March I spread manure over this bed and then covered it with weed suppressant as I hadn’t got time to fork it in.  I have found if I don’t fork the manure into the soil then it just dried in clumps on the top of the soil.

By covering the manure I was hoping that the worms would do some of the job for me…and indeed they did:

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….but there were still the odd bits that needed forking in, so I set to work turning the soil with my fork:

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This is the area that had my wildflowers in for the last two years, so this is the third time I have dug it over and I was astonished to find this in my soil:

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How on earth did I miss it before?  You can see how big it was next to my fork.

Another one of those crazy allotment mysteries!

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My chives have been looking beautiful this week and when I have stood and watched I can see lots of insects buzzing around them:

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But unfortunately as beautiful as they are, they now aren’t providing me with any chives to pick for our salads.  So at this time of year I chop some of the stems back and this allows the chives to regrow and provide me with another lot of fresh pickings in a few weeks time.

I also leave some of the chives in flower, for the beneficial insects to still visit.

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I don’t know if you remember that back in March I started to re-vamp the area at the back of my allotment.  This is the area that I moved my shed from last year.  I planted a quince tree here and also dug a small area at the back where I transplanted some rosa rugosa from my garden at home (so I could use the rosehips when they are established) and I also transplanted some ‘vinca minor’ (periwinkle) from home to cover the bare soil around rosa rugosa.

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I’m not sure at the moment whether I will woodchip this area or grass it…I will decide later on in the year when I have more time.

Until the plants become established, the ground around the vinca and rosa regosa is quite bare.  So I decided to transplant some calendula, that self seeds freely around ‘Calendula alley’.  You can see the established flowers in this old photograph below:

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I also transplanted some calendula in the old tubs at the back of this area too

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I think this area will be a lovely area to sit down and have a picnic, when it is finally finished next year.

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When I started my blog nearly two years ago, I wrote a post every day to get my blog established.  In January 2013 I decided to write just twice a week, however I am finding this incredibly difficult with other commitments that I have.

  One of my new commitments is learning to play the piano and I really enjoy practising every day as I find it a good way to relax (especially after stressful days).  I also enjoy writing my blog though and I don’t want to give this up.  So after lots of soul searching, I have decided to write my blog just once a week now and publish it on a Friday only.

I think this is a good solution which will allow me time to still blog and do other things (and write about them for you).

I hope nobody minds this too much.

I will still answer all your comments, as this is my favourite part of blogging.  If you haven’t left a comment before I would really love to hear from you.

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One other thing I wanted to mention, is my followers on ‘Twitter’ are growing rapidly, which I am very pleased with.  Therefore I have started to use Twitter more by posting little ‘chestnuts’ of information or ‘top tips’ on there every few days when I think of them.

So if you have a Twitter account you can follow me by clicking on the ‘follow’ button on the right hand side of this page or visit my twitter account ‘@Mrs_Thrift’

I was a bit nervous about using Twitter in the beginning as it sometimes gets bad press, but there really is nothing to it.  You can ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ people whenever you like.

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Anyway,  thank you for reading my blog today.

Don’t forget I will be here every Friday from now on.

A Very Cheap Fruit Cage & Sowing The ‘Big Boys’

**** Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 28th April ****

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My leeks are one of the first crops I sow in the new year and this year I sowed them on the 21st February.  They are a variety called ‘Musselburgh’.

Leeks are an easy crop to grow from seed.  I sow them in a seed tray and leave them inside my house until the moment they germinate and then I move them to my cold greenhouse to grow on.

No matter how I try, I always sow my leek seeds too thickly and at this time of year I end up having to carefully ‘thin’ them out.  ‘Thinning out’ is just a name for removing some of the plants, so that the remaining ones can grow to a decent size before you plant them out.

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I usually leave about one centimeter between plants.  You can see in the photographs below the tray before thinning and after thinning:

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Just one point to remember, it’s best to give your plants some water afterwards, to help settle their roots after any disturbance from the thinning:

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A lot of my time this week has been spent seed sowing.  I start most of my vegetable seeds off at home as I find I get a much better gemination rate as I can give them the exact conditions that the seeds like.

So this week I have sown my outdoor tomatoes, parsnips, beetroot, spring onions, spring broccoli, khol rabi, basil, coriander, swede, lettuce, turnips and perpetual spinach.

I have also started to sow what I call the ‘big boys’…my summer squashes.  I have sown butternut squash, pumpkins, patty pans, courgettes and my gherkins.  These are all sitting snug and warm in propagators behind our french doors at home.  Incidentally, I have had these propagators for years and they were so cheap to buy from places like Wilkinsons or the pound shop:

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I like to try out something new each year and this year I have decided to give the ‘cucamelon’ a go.  I have read various good and bad reviews about these, so I decided to bite the bullet and have a go myself.

Apparently, they look like grape sized watermelons that taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime and they are supposed to be really easy to grow….I will let you know.

You can read about cucamelons here.

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I also sowed my climbing peas this week, they are a variety called ‘peashooter’.  I absolutely love this variety as the peas are so fat and juicy and I have never had a bad crop.  I saved the seeds from last years crop, as the seeds are expensive to buy and easy to save.

Because these seeds are so precious to me, I start them off in toilet rolls in my greenhouse, so I give them the best chance to germinate without mice eating them:

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I also like to have some salad leaves handy at home, ready to use, so I started off some mixed salad leaves this week too.

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I used an old grocers box with an old compost bag to line it.  I fill it with compost, sow the seeds and then cover the seeds with a little more compost.  I then just place the box and in my greenhouse and give it a good water.

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Below are some mixed salad leaves that I sowed in exactly the same way on the 6th March.  So you can see they don’t take long to grow, as these are nearly ready:

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I use them as a ‘cut and come again’ crop, as once you cut them they grow again.

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The green house is filling up nicely now.

  You can see in the photograph below that I started to ‘pot on’ my greenhouse tomato plants (which just means to put them in a bigger pot) but unfortunately I ran out of compost, so I only managed to do two of them.  I will do the other ones over Easter:

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At my allotment this week I finally painted the wood around the new area that surrounds my blackberries.

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I also began a project to smarten up the area in front of my utility area. I put some wood down to surround my bed and finished it off with a lick of wood stain too.

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I also planted a clematis that my daughters bought me for Mother’s Day.

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I planted the clematis to climb up the old swing that I brought to the allotment a couple of weeks ago.  I made sure the clematis was planted deeply and I covered the roots with stones to guard against ‘clematis wilt’.

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The clematis I planted over the other swing last year, was an early flowering clematis called ‘montana’.  The new clematis will flower during summer, so hopefully it will look beautiful climbing over the swing.

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This week I also put up my D-I-Y, no nails or screws, fruit cage.

I can’t afford one of those lovely fruit cages you can buy that just slot together and myself and Mr Thrift are not very good at D-I-Y, so a few years ago I came up with the idea of using canes, bottles and netting and it had worked brilliantly over the years.

Fruit netting should really be taken down over the winter so the birds can eat the grubs that pupae under the fruit bushes, so my cage works great as it’s only needed for a few months in the year.

All I do is make holes in the bottles to hold up the canes and push the supporting canes into the ground:

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I find that the plastic bottles that cheap handwash comes in, are the best bottles to use as the plastic is soft and doesn’t go brittle and can be used time and time again:

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After the canes and bottles were up I just pegged down the netting and the result is a very cheap fruit cage:

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I also dug up some of my remaining leeks this week and made the most enormous pot of leek and potato soup, also using my last few homegrown potatoes from last year.

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I managed to get nine portions of soup to freeze and I also sent some of it down to my In-laws for lunch.  I always feel good when I have made meals out of homegrown vegetables.  I find it so satifying.

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Finally, I decided to change the signs that show my plot number, as the old ones were really scruffy.  I used some old wood and the posts from the old signs and gave them a lick of paint.  I then used my daughter acrylic paints for the colours.  I still have two more posts to paint yet.

Wilkinsons were selling some of their paints and varnishes off cheap and I managed to get a small tin of varnish for just 50p (which I was really quite proud of).

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So I have now given my new signs their first coat of varnish.  I’m not really an artist as you can see, but I’m quite pleased with them so far (even though they are a bit ‘girlie’)….

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Anyway, it’s time for me to go now.

I am going to take a couple of weeks off writing, to spend time during the Easter school holidays with my daughters.

So I will be back on Monday 28th April.

I will be around to read and answer your comments so please them coming, as it’s lovely to hear from you.

Thank you for reading my blog today and have a good easter.