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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.

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Batch Baking, Fixed Beds And Celeriac

Before I start I thought I would show you a couple of photos that I took yesterday out of the car window, whilst my husband was driving.  I think the display of daffodils that Leicester City Council planted a few years ago, really look beautiful this year.  I think the daffodils are the variety called ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and they look stunning planted all along the central reservation.

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Yesterday morning I did my usual weekend ‘batch baking’.  I love baking all in one go, as it saves me time during the week and energy as I cook things together.

This weekend I made fruit scones and weetabix chocolate brownies for lunch boxes and a chocolate cake for tea. I butter the scones before freezing them as it makes it easier in the mornings, as I just take a couple of scones out and pop them a lunch box.

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I also made a large pot of vegetable soup to take to the allotment with me in my flask.  I love having homemade soup with a homemade roll, sitting in the sunshine at my allotment watching all the birds and insects buzzing around….and it’s full of vitamins and cheap too.

My homemade soup has whatever I fancy from the freezer when I make it.  Yesterday’s soup has my homegrown swede, turnip, courgettes, runnerbeans, broadbeans, pumpkin and leeks in it.

I just fried the leek in a tablespoon of olive oil until it was soft and threw everything else in and just covered it all with vegetable stock and left it to simmer for thirty minutes.

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I then used my hand blender to ‘blitz’ it until it was smooth and divided it into portions which I froze when it had cooled down.

It really is an easy meal to make.

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At my allotment this weekend I noticed lots of ladybirds appearing.  In this particular clump of overgrown grass there were loads of them together, though the photograph actually only shows three.

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I have ‘fixed beds’ at my allotment, which just means I have paths either side of my beds so I don’t need to walk on them.  This makes it far easier for me to manage the soil, as I can just lightly ‘fork’ over my beds if I need to.

I chose not to have raised beds as I couldn’t afford the wood for raised beds (as I have four plots) and I would also need to buy in the top soil to fill them.

My top soil is nice and deep and I don’t think raised beds would be an advantage for me.  The only exception is my one raised bed that I use to grow my carrots in, as I can not grow carrots in my very heavy soil.  This one and only raised bed is made up each year of my homemade compost, leafmould and a bag of sand and this is the only way I have managed to grow carrots.

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So this week I have been busy finishing the weed suppressant paths that I talked about here and I have been ‘forking’ over this area ready for my legumes.

I think this area looks much better without the bricks holding the weed suppressant down and it will be lovely not to have the weed suppressant ‘fraying’ all over the place as it gets caught up in my fork, which is very annoying as it makes the job harder to do.

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There was one area that I had been treading on all winter, as I had put the prunings that I took from my plum tree late last summer there.  This wasn’t a wise move as it was really hard work forking the soil over, as it had all compacted and the water was slow to drain from this area.

  I thought I would show you the difference between the soil that I had trod on lots over the winter and the soil that I hadn’t trod on.  Both photos were taken when I had turned the soil over with my fork.  You can see the soil structure where I hadn’t walked, in the right hand photo. This was far better than the soil on the left hand photo, where I had walked.  So this is really enough proof to me that my ‘fixed’ beds do actually work.

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This weekend I had been transplanting some of my plants at the allotment.  I have divided my chysanthemums and planted them through my weed suppressant next to the boxes that I made last week to edge my plot:

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I have also been transplanting some of them to the outside of my woodland area, together with foxgloves that have self seeded around my plot.  Hopefully they will look lovely when they flower.

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And finally, I transplanted some Michaelmas daisys that had outgrown their spot, to the back of my plot around the Hazel trees which I coppiced this winter…

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…I do already have Lavatera and Buddlia growing at the back of the Hazel, so hopefully with the  Michaelmas daisys,   this area won’t look so bare whilist the Hazel is growing back.

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One last thing, I picked the last of my celeriac this weekend.  I don’t usually leave it in the ground overwinter, but I somehow over looked it….but I have got away with it as it has been so mild.  The celeraic does have one or two slug holes in, but I am really pleased with it overall.

So my next job is to freeze it this week.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

A Plant Sale, Comfrey Tea And An Easy Chocolate Traybake Recipe

I hope you all had a good weekend.

Today I thought I’d start by saying a big “welcome” to people that have recently followed my blog.  I noticed yesterday that I have over three hundred followers and I feel very privileged to have this many.  Thank you to all of you that read my blog, I hope I will continue to write things of interest for you.

I love receiving feedback and questions, so please feel free to leave comments on my blog.  If there is anything that I can help you with e.g. any questions about something I’ve written about or any non-related gardening questions etc, please do not be afraid to ask…after all, if you don’t know the answer then I will guarantee there will be lots of other people that don’t know the answer too.

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The appletree at my allotment

The apple tree at my allotment

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And now for some sad news….

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 Last week I received the very sad news that ‘Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire’ had ceased trading and was set to go into voluntary liquidation.

Groundwork was based in offices at Western Park, in Hinckley Road, Leicester, next door to the city council’s Eco House, which it also manages and which is currently closed.

Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire was an environmental charity which worked with schools and other organisations to promote a greener lifestyle.  It has closed with the loss of 26 jobs.  This is what the Leicester Mercury said about them:

“Since 1987, the Leicester charity – previously called Environ – has helped thousands of people, organisations and businesses improve their neighbourhoods, learn skills, improve their job prospects and create a greener county.

One of its key areas has been helping students and young people get into work. It also helped to manage the Bikes4All and Allotments4All initiatives.

It has worked with various organisations including councils, schools and universities as well as local and regional businesses.”

You can read the full article in the Leicester Mercury here.

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My friend Rob Carter was regrettably one of the 26 people.  Rob ran the ‘Organic Gardening Course’ that I talked about last year on my blog.  He is one of the most knowledgeable organic gardeners, that I have ever met and what he doesn’t know about gardening, really isn’t worth knowing.

Rob was planning a plant sale this month and volunteers have been helping him to grow plants in readiness.  Even though Rob has lost his job at Eco House, he is still going ahead with the plant sale, which I think is admirable.  Volunteers (including myself) will be there to sell the plants we have grown, all in peat free composts and will answer any questions you have about the plants.

So if you are in the area on Sunday, please consider visiting the sale for cheap, good quality flower and vegetable plants.  After all, unless a miracle happens, this will be the last sale.

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Better news now… this weekend I harvested my first ever asparagus.  I know there isn’t much here, but I’ve waited three years to get a crop and hopefully there will still be some more to come.

It tasted wonderful with a knob of butter melted over it.

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My comfrey is growing well now, so a few days ago I made some comfrey tea so it will be ready in a couple of weeks.

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Comfrey tea is a wonderful organic fertiliser which is high in potash and free to make.  The deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers.  I use it so much that I have a water butt that I use purely for comfrey tea.

All I did was collect a few leaves and stalks and wrapped them up in an old net with a rock to weigh it down.

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I tied it securely and lowered it into my water butt and covered it in water.

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I put the lid back on the water butt and I will leave it now for at least two weeks before I use it.

You can find more information about this wonderful plant and how to grow it here.

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Another job I managed to do at my allotment, was to put some chicken wire on my daughters’ old swing.  I moved the swing a couple of months ago, so you can walk under it, along my central path.

I then planted a Clematis Montana, so it can grow up and over it.  Hopefully, it will be covered in flowers next spring and look beautiful:

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Finally, it’s been a while since I posted a cheap and easy cake recipe on here.  So below is a very simple tray-bake (I try to make sure all my recipes are easy to make).

This cake is ideal if you have kids coming for tea, or to freeze ahead ready for packed lunches.  If you freeze them, slice the cake into squares and put them into the freezer on a tray.  Put them into a bag or container when they are frozen, so they don’t stick together.  This way it is easy to take one piece of cake out of the freezer in the morning and pop it into the kid’s lunch boxes still frozen, as they will defrost in no time:

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A Quick And Easy Chocolate Tray-Bake Recipe:

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6 oz. of Margarine

6 oz. Caster sugar

6 oz. Self raising flour

3 Eggs

1 Tablespoon Cocoa powder

1 Teaspoon of baking powder

Cooking chocolate and sprinkles to decorate.

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Preheat the oven Gas Mark 4 / 350F / 176C

Lay a piece of greaseproof paper over a tray, approximately 9 x 12 ½ inch in size.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder into a bowl.

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Add the caster sugar, eggs and margarine.

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Mix all the ingredients until they are combined. Add a little bit of water if needed, to achieve a good dropping consistency (i.e. it drops off the spoon easily).

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Smooth the mixture over the greaseproof paper in the tray and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes.

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When it is cooked, slide the greaseproof paper off the tray and onto a cooling tray and leave to cool.

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When cooled, melt some cooking chocolate in the microwave and spread over the cake and use sprinkles or whatever you want over the top to decorate.

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Slice when the chocolate has set.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.