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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!

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A Holiday, Mildew & Blackfly Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Holiday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Back home:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will let you know the results.

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

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

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

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

You can find the recipe here:

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Back home in our garden

Back home in our garden

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

I will be back again next Friday as usual.

Good Friends & A ‘Blackfly Brew’ Trial

Last weekend we invited some very good friends over for the evening and we had a wonderful time catching up, over homemade pizza’s and puddings.

A Homemade Lemon Merangue Pie

A Homemade Lemon Merangue Pie

A long time ago we all met in a large office and became good friends very quickly as we shared the same sense of humour and fun outlook on life.  We went on lots of holidays together, days out and spent many evenings laughing until our bellys ached.

We all met our partners, but that didn’t stop us as the group just got bigger and even when we all left our work place we kept in touch…..but then children came along and sadly, as often happens, we did seem to drift apart – however, one person did keep in contact with each and everyone of us……my good friend Helen, who passed away two years ago.

We all met up again at her funeral and we have thankfully stayed in touch since…..it seems to me that this was a ‘parting gift’ to us all from our wonderful friend Helen.  So Helen if you are looking down on us, thank you for this.

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In My Kitchen Garden this week:

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I’m very proud to say that my kitchen garden is now producing crops.

Besides the lettuce, chives and radishes we have been picking for a while now, I have now started to pick mangetout daily:

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And my first peas are ready for picking….but unfortunately they didn’t make it to the table as it’s become a tradition in our house to eat the first peas straight out of the pod…..there really isn’t anything that tastes as lovely:

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I have also been picking broad beans, but unfortunately with my decorating last week some of them became a bit too large.  However, as I tend to cook them and puree them up for spag bogs, curries etc (as Mr Thrift doesn’t like them), it really won’t matter.

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I froze the broad beans by blanching them for two minutes before ‘open freezing’ on a tray:

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I also picked the first fruit from my small kitchen garden….a few blackcurrants and gooseberries which my daughter ate.  The plants are very young and I think it will be a while before they will give me a large crop, but I am pleased I got something this year:

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And yes, that time of year is finally upon us……courgette time!  As usual we all look forward to the first courgette and we always fry it up and use it in an omolette….(I know we will be fed up with them again soon like everyone else, but for the moment we will enjoy them).

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(By the way, there is a post I wrote here that talks about ways to use up hundreds of courgettes, if anyone is interested).

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A Blackfly Brew & Bird Damage:

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This week I have noticed a couple of pests in my small kitchen garden.  The first was ‘birds’.  I had covered my climbing peas in environmesh to stop the ‘pea moth’ and also the birds.  Birds were always a nuisence at my allotment eating most things.  As they particularly love the tops of pea shoots, I covered them without thinking.  However, I didn’t cover my dwarf peas and they seemed to be ok, so I became complacent, thinking that I wouldn’t have a problem in my back garden…

Yesterday I saw a bird fly off as I approached my kitchen garden and I then found bird damage on my lettuces, but luckily I had caught it early.  You can see the tears on the outside leaf in the photo below (which incidentally it looks different to slug damage):

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So I covered my lettuces so the birds can’t do any more damage:

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Another pest I found this week was blackfly on my courgettes:

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Now I’ve got to be honest, I don’t usually bother treating my courgettes for blackfly as they are usually big and strong enough to survive it without effecting the amount I harvest and also the ladybirds usually come to my rescue and have a feast…but I wanted to try something new out this year:

I had recently read about a home made ‘All Purpose Organic Pesticide’ that ‘Eco Snippets’ had published and I thought I would have a go.  You can find the orginal recipe here.

This is what the website says about it:

“It can be used on a variety of insects that live in the dirt or on the plants including worms, mites and other parasites.

This entire pesticide will eventually break down and be reduced to nothing, so it is OK to eat any herbs or vegetables that are growing. This is mainly intended for indoor use, but there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work outdoors as well”

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So this is how I made my ‘Black fly Brew:

(I halved the original recipe as it seemed to be a hugh amount to make in one go)

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Ingredients-

  • 2 ¼ litres of warm water
  • 1 onion
  • 2 small hot peppers (I couldn’t find jalapeno peppers)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid soap (I used my ‘soap nut’ liquid as it’s natural)

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First I roughly chopped the onion, peppers and garlic and placed them in a bowl:

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I then used a stick blender to puree them into a thick paste:

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I added the puree to the warm water and left them to ‘stew’ for 20 minutes:

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I strained the brew through an old piece of material and I then gave the remaining paste a squeeze (with rubber gloves on) to remove all the juices:

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I then added the liquid soap and gave it a stir:

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I poured the liquid into a spray bottle and the remaining into a spare plastic bottle and labled them well:

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Apparently this liquid keeps for two weeks in the fridge.

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It says on their website to use the spray every 4-5 days and it takes about 3 or 4 treatments to work….so I went out and sprayed one of my two plants straight away.

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The ‘EcoSnippets’ website says:

“Try to get all over the plant including the stem and under the leaves. Spray the soil as well so that the top of it is wet.

What this liquid does is make every part of the plant that it touches unpalatable to the insect. The water evaporates and leaves behind the odor and flavor. It smells and tastes gross and they won’t eat it. When they won’t eat anymore, they eventually starve. The liquid will not kill the insects on contact, so do not get upset if you see increased activity after the application. They’re simply struggling to find something to eat”

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I will monitor both my courgette plants and report the results back to you in a couple of weeks.

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In My Home This Week:

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I have had a relatively quiet week in the house after all my decorating last week, but I did want to mention a couple of things.  After our friends visit at the weekend, we had half a tub of mascopone left over and my eldest daughter decided she would use it so it didn’t go to waste (she obviously takes after me).   So she made a pasta sauce using tomatoes and mascopone and fried some courgettes, mangetout, onion and garlic and added it to the sauce:

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She then served it with salad dressed with olive oil, lemon and salt and it was delicious!

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She also decided to make some biscuits for her teachers at school, to say thank you for helping her during her first year of ‘A’ levels.  She made shortbread biscuits and then covered a an old sweet tub to make it look pretty and this was the result:

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I think this present is far nicer than any shop bought present that you could give and as I always say:

“A homemade present is from the heart, not just from your bank account”

I was very proud of her and I think she now deserves her title of ‘Ms Thrift’.

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Also this week Judy (our rescue dog) has not had a good week and has gone backwards a little bit with her training, but I am working on this with Steven Havers, our trainer and I am hoping it is just a ‘blip’.  However, she is still doing well overall and fitting in our family nicely at home.

 

Judy asleep with her ball

Judy asleep with her ball

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That’s enough for now, I will be back again next Friday as usual.

Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope you have a good week!

Hidden Leicester, Cabbage Root Flies And More…

This week I nipped into town for a few bits and bobs.  On the way to the shops I took a detour and walked past Leicester Cathedral, as there have been a lot of changes to this area due to Richard III.

I pleasently surprised at how lovely this area now looks:

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I also passed through an area behind the Mary De Castro church where I walked through the ‘Turret Gateway’ which dates back to approximately 1423.

Years ago I took the same walk but didn’t know anything about it, so I was pleasently surprised to see that there is now an interesting information board next to it.

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I then walked past Castle Gardens and it was lovely and neat and the flower beds looked beautiful:

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I do wonder how many other beautiful areas there are in Leicester that I have forgotten about or that have been renovated…..perhaps it’s time I started to pay more attention to the city I was born in.

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This week we have had lots of rain and I have been dodging the showers outside.  Amazingly the ‘makeshift’ water butt that I set up next to my greenhouse (which I will sort properly when I get around to it), is full already.  This area obviously collects more water than I realised and I may need to set up another waterbutt there as well, so I can collect as much water as possible for my garden.

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Between the showers I have been sorting my cabbages.  Two weeks ago I planted my red and whilte cabbages and put plastic bottles over them to act as a mini cloche to each of them.  This was to protect them from the cold nights and the slugs while they were small.  However, they have grown so well that they were beginning to become squashed in the bottles, so it was time I did something about it.

I first built a D-I-Y cage using bottles and canes:

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I then removed the bottles and made homemade (and free) cabbage collars out of old cardboard, which I then placed around the cabbages to protect the plants from the cabbage root fly.

“Cabbage collars can cost between £3 or £4 for 30, but you can make them easily by using a square piece of cardboard which you cut a cross in the middle and place around the stem.  The cross in the middle allows the stem to grow.

  By using cabbage collars, you can avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of your plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassica’s to either grow weakly or just wilt and die.

The following year, cabbage root fly will emerge from the pupae which overwintered in the soil.  This is a good reason to rotate your crops each year”.

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 I then put a net over the top of my bottle and cane structure, to stop cabbage white butterflies from laying there eggs on the leaves of my plants.

“Cabbage white butterflies lay eggs on brassicas (usually underneath the leaves) between May and October and it is the resulting caterpillars that do the damage to your plants by eating the leaves.

  The easiest way to stop them is by covering your plants with a net, but make sure the net has small enough holes and the sides are firmly attached to the ground to stop the butterflies from entering.

If you do find the tell tale yellow eggs on your brassicas, then you can squash them between your fingers and the caterpillars can be picked off using your fingers and destroyed”.

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I will soon be planting kale next to my cabbages, so I have made sure my cage was tall enough and the net was long enough to cover the kale as well.

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By the way, you can use this D-I-Y cage on a much larger scale if you want to.  In fact at my old allotment I used the same bottle and cane structure to make a cheap fruit cage:

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And also, don’t forget you can store your bottle cloches ready to use again easily, by using a cane pushed into the ground and sliding the bottles over them:

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This week in my garden I thinned the khol rabi I sowed a few weeks ago.  I find it easier to use a pair of scissors to thin my seedlings out, as this stops any root disturbance to the remaining seedlings (a tip that Angus Scott gave on my blog – so thank you Angus).

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Also, the area where I sowed my wild flowers a few weeks ago had a visit from a squirrel.  Unfortuantely one of my neighbours feed the squirrels money nuts and they dig the garden to hide them.

So I covered the area with wire that I brought home from my allotment, hopefully this will deter the squirrel while my plants are young.

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I ‘earthed up’ the potatoes I put in my old dustbin, by putting a few inches of compost over the shoots.  I will continue doing this until the shoots have grown over the top of the bin as this will stop the potatoes from turning green from the light.

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I transplanted my greenhouse tomatoes this week into their final pots.  I use old Blood, fish and bone pots to grow them in, with holes drilled in the bottom.  The lids make great saucers to catch the water underneath the pots in the greenhouse too:

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I also gave my greenhouse a sort out this week and removed some staging that I haven’t use this year, as I’m growing so many seeds.  This staging had become a bit of a ‘dumping’ place which wasn’t good:

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Unfortunately one of the two cucumber plants I grew from seed died this week.  Unfortunately cucumbers are suseptable to ‘root rot’ when the soil is too wet….I do know this and I obviously wasn’t careful enough, so it serves me right for not paying enough attention.  Luckily the other cucumber plant is doing well:

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Over the past few weeks I have been wondering where to plant my outdoor tomato plants at the end of May and this week I decided on a place outside my greenhouse.

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I dug up the grass (and the forget-me-not that had self seeded) and realised that the soil was dreadful…. there was only about an inch of top soil, which was full of stones.  So I dug some of the subsoil out and replaced it with a mix of compost and manure, ready for my tomatoes.  I then edged it with some of the stones I found when I was first clearing my new kitchen garden area:

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It looks much neater now and the forget-me-not is now sitting in a pot until it dies:

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In The Home This Week….

Back in the home this week I have decided to get a bit more organised and I bought a ‘things to do’ book to help me.  I borrowed some ‘post it notes’ from my daughter to create sections in the book:

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I am hoping that I will actually remember to write in it, so I don’t forget the jobs that I need to do.  I always had a book at my allotment for this reason where I would walk around my plot on a Monday morning and look at what needed to be done….I can’t see any reason why this won’t work in the home too….I’ll let you know in a few weeks.

I wonder if anyone reading this blog keeps a ‘things to do book’ too.  If you do, let me know if it’s successful.

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‘Leftovers’

Finally this week, I found myself in a situation where I had three sausages and a small amount of cooked chicken leftover in my fridge…..so I cooked the sausages, chopped them up and put them in a ‘use it up’ curry together with the cooked chicken and left over vegetables that I had in my freezer (I always freeze left over cooked veg to use in pies and curries etc).

I have never thought of using sausages in a curry before and I actually wondered if they would taste horrible, but I’ve got to say, they were really nice!

The recipe for the ‘Use it up curry’ can be found here if anyone is interested.

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Well that’s it for today, but I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a good weekend and thank you for reading my blog.

A Cucamelon Review & Winter Salads

The mornings have been quite chilly this week, feeling very much like autumn is here.

On Wednesday we had some well needed rain overnight and when the sun came out in the early morning it was a beautiful sight, with rains drops glistening around the allotment.

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This week I have been concentrating on my polytunnel, getting it ready for winter.

The crops in my polytunnel had just about finished, except for a few tomatoes (which I will ripen at home) and some peppers and melons that were ready for picking:

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….and I mustn’t forget  the thousand ‘cucamelons’ dangling at me, ready to pick.

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A Quick Cucamelon Review:

Every year I like to grow something different and this year I chose ‘cucamelons’ .  I had read different reports about them and came to the conclusion that they are a bit like ‘marmite’, you either love them or hate them….so I decided to grow them for myself.

  The fruits are grape sized and they are supposed to taste of cucumber with a hint of lime, but I am yet to taste one that actually had the hint of lime in it.  The cucamelon can be eaten whole or chopped up in salads.  The skin has the texture of a sweet pepper, so it has a bite to it….inside it is like a mini cucumber.

They were easy to grow in my polytunnel and after a slow start they started to take over, smothering my tomato plants that grew next to them, but I’ve got to say there were millions of fruits that just kept coming and coming and coming!

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Unfortunately my family didn’t like them and after forcing them at anyone that came into our house, I found that not many other people liked them either.   I didn’t think they were too bad, until I ate quite a few for tea one day and ended up with bad indigestion all night!

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Needless to say, I won’t be growing these again….but we live and learn.

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Winter Salads:

Last month I sowed some winter salads ready for my polytunnel and they have grown quite well and were ready for planting.   However first I needed to clear the crops that were left in my polytunnel:

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One surprise I did find in my polytunnel when I was clearing it, was some carrots that I had completely forgotten about…and they had grown really well.  Carrots can be stored in compost at home until they are needed, but I know these carrots won’t last long in our house as everyone loves them.

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After I had cleared the crops, I forked the soil over and gave the soil a covering of homemade compost.  I also raked in some blood, fish and bone where I would be planting my salads:

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The winter salads that I chose to grow were mizuna, winter lettuce, corn salad, rocket and perpetual spinach.  I also grew some beetroot as a trial, to see if I could use the small leaves over winter in salads (though I’m not expecting to grow a decent sized root).

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After planting the above crops I gave them a good watering and I must say the polytunnel did look different….another reminder that autumn is here:

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One of the things I have learnt from bitter experience, whether you grow plants in a cloche, a greenhouse or a polytunnel, you need to provide ventilation during the autumn or winter months.  If you don’t then the humid conditions will be a breeding ground for grey mould, which will smother and kill your plants.  So on fine days I open the doors on my polytunnel throughout the winter months.

“Grey mould is caused by a fungus called ‘Botrytis cinerea’ which can infect plants at any time of the year.  It can enter a plant through a wound or infect a weak  plant under stress.  It will also infect healthy plants in humid conditions”.

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At home this week I have continued to use up my ripening tomatoes to make soup and passata…

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 …and I only have a few left to use now, which again shows me that Autumn is here and the wonderful harvest of summer is nearly behind us.

Now it’s the time that the Autumn harvest of pumpkins, butternut squashes, apples etc. begins.  The nights start to draw in and the leaves on the trees begin to fall.

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This is my favourite time of year when I start to reflect on my gardening year and work out what crops have been a success and which haven’t.  It’s the time of the year when things start to slow down slightly at the allotment, giving me time to breathe and admier the late summer flowers on my plot.

When I work my plot on a crisp Autumn morning it makes me feel glad to be alive.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time. 

 

A Brassica Week & A Final Finale

This week at my allotment my Michaelmas daisys have begun to flower and they look beautiful, standing next to the yellow and orange marigolds and calendulas.

The purple daisys remind me that Autumn is beginning and I think of these flowers as my allotments’ ‘final finale’ of the summer….and of course, the bees love them:

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I have spent most of this week tidying the remaining vegetables at my allotment:

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I removed the netting from my brassicas and gave them a good weed and removed any yellowing leaves.  By removing any dead foliage, it helps to stop any pests from hiding underneath them.

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I noticed there are loads and loads of white fly this year…..I don’t usually bother to eridicate them, however the white fly have started to cause a ‘sooty mould’ on a couple of lower leaves on one of my spring brocolli plants:

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‘Sooty mould’ is a black or dark brown powdery fungus that covers the leaf and it actually looks a bit like soot.  In severe cases it stops the plant from photosynthesising and severely weakens it or even kills the plant.

‘Sooty mould’ is a fungal disease caused by sap sooting insects such as aphids, scale insects, mealy bugs etc, or in my case it is whitefly.

I removed the two infected leaves on my plant and I will continue to monitor the situation.  If it gets too bad I will use a ‘soft soap’ spray, but for the mean time I will do nothing as it isn’t affecting my plant too badly and in the past I have still had good crops from plants covered in white fly.

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One other thing I did whilst removing the yellowing leaves on my brocolli, was to tie each plant to a support.  I place a support into the ground next to my brocolli and brussels when I first transplant them earlier in the year.  This way, I don’t damage the larger roots when the plants are bigger.

Tying the plants to the supports will help avoid the plants rocking when strong winds blow them about.  The movement is sometimes called ‘wind rock’ and it can break some of the tiny root hairs that are responsible for taking in the nutrients from the soil.  This can cause the plants to weaken and brussel sprouts to ‘blow’.

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I noticed this week that some of my cabbages are finally ready to eat.  Unfortunately these cabbages took a battering from ‘flea beatle’ when they were originally transplanted back in early summer.

Most people dig their plants up when they are attacked by flea beetle, but I always give my plants a liquid seaweed feed and give them a chance to recover…..and everytime they do recover with good results – though they always take longer to grow:

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This week I have also transplanted my Spring cabbage.  I didn’t grow my own Spring cabbage this year, so I bought the plants from a local nursery.

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I raked in some Blood, fish and bone and then transplanted the plants and gave each one a homemade ‘cabbage collar’ to stop the cabbage root fly form laying it’s eggs at the base of my plants.

Cabbage collars cost between £3 or £4 to buy a pack of 30.  To save money I make my own by cutting out a square of thick cardboard and then cutting a cross in the middle where the stem will go.  As the stem grows it can expand because of the cross in the middle.

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I place each collar around the stem and it will stop the cabbage root fly from laying it’s eggs and eventually it will just decompose into the soil.

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Elsewhere on the allotment this week, I have been tidying up my woodland area ready for winter.  I weeded and removed some dead foliage and then gave it a mulch of one year old leaf mould that wasn’t quite broken down enough to use on my vegetable beds, but is great for my woodland area:

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 I also noticed that I have an explosion of weed seedlings around my strawberries, so I gave them a good hoe to remove them:

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An Unfortunate Trip!

This week at my allotment I decided to move one or two large slabs and unfortunately I tripped over backwards and ended up with the slab in the photo below, on top of me!  Luckily the sack barrow took the weight of the slab, but I must have looked like one of those cartoon characters with just my arms and legs hanging out from the sides of the slab!…I must have looked funny.

There was no harm done though and I just ended up with a bruise on my leg and a ‘bottom’ that hurt the next day!

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Finally, at home this week I have been blanching and freezing my sweetcorn.  I have had a really good crop of sweetcorn this year, probably due to the warm summer.

I washed the sweetcorn and then blanched them for five minures before bagging them up in family sized portions and freezing.   It’s lovely having sweetcorn in the depths of winter as it always reminds of summer.

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I also weighed and bagged up some of the tomatoes that are ripening outside at home.  I then popped them into the freezer and I will use these to make tomato soup in the winter too.  The tomatoes will turn mushy when they are defrosted, but this is fine for soup.

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The allotment is continuing to provide vegetables and salads and I think the taste of freshly picked homegrown organic produce is far superior to supermarket produce and it’s cheaper to grow.

I feel very priviledged to be able to provide my family with the fruit, vegetables and salads that I grow.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

A Lot Of Hardwork!

I love this time of year as the harvesting of crops is finally slowing down at the allotment after a very busy summer and I can finally carry out some other jobs.

A couple of weeks ago I started to remove the old, unproductive raspberries from my plot and I laid a new path next to the area.  I have finally dug up the rest of the raspberries now and the area will provide another bed for me to use next year:

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The weed suppressant in the middle of the raspberries (in the first photo) covered the grass that I sowed a few years ago to walk on.  I covered the grass for a few months to kill it, so I could just easily dig the grass into the ground.

Weed suppressant kills the grass and weeds well, except for bind weed which just skims the surface and ‘pops’ out at the side.  However it does make it easier to just pull most of it up, though I will have to make sure I hoe this area every week during the growing season to weaken it, in the hope I can eventually kill it.

For those of you that don’t grow organically, ‘glyphosate’ does kill bindweed easily, though I choose not to use chemicals.

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After digging the area over I topped it with some of my homemade compost and I laid some paths so I don’t need to walk on the soil that I plant into and I was very pleased with the result:

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As I had a few spare slabs I also laid a path between my woodland area and my strawberries.  This area was a real pain as before I only had a small path made of weed suppressant that I struggled to walk down.  I also finished off a path next to my water tank, which will also make things easier for me:

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If you read my blog a couple of weeks ago you will remember I stripped the green tomatoes from my outdoor plants as I was worrying about losing them to ‘tomato blight’.  I put the tomatoes in my mini-greenhouse at home and they have been ripening well:

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….And I have been busy at home making lots of tomato sauce to use in spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces. pizza sauce etc.

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And it is a good job I did remove the tomatoes when I did, as ‘blight’ did strike a week later and you can see in the photograph below how it very quickly affected the few remaining tomatoes that I left on the plants.

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I dug the tomato plants up quickly, removing any remaining tomatoes and put the foliage into my compost bin.

The stems and leaves of tomato plants that have ‘blight’ can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material.  Do ensure that you remove every last one of the tomatoes on the plants, as the blight spores survive in the seeds….SO DO NOT COMPOST THE FRUIT. 

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I dug the area over where the plants had been growing and forked in some manure.  I again split the bed up with some old weed suppressant, so I could easily walk around the bed without treading on the soil…and this was another bed completed for the winter:

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Another area I have concentrated on this week is outside my polytunnel.  This area used to be a real problem area as it looked unsightly with a few slabs, crazy paving and couch grass and the area was full of weeds.  So last winter I removed everything from the area and laid weed suppressant, with woodchip on top and it looked lovely.

However, this is how the area looked again last week:

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Unfortunately, the weed suppressant I used was just not up to the job and the weeds had grown through it!

I bought this weed suppressant from our allotment shop and it was a different sort to normal.  Weed suppressant is sold in different grades and this was obviously a low grade, but as I have never had a problem with their weed suppressant before, I just never gave it another thought….that will teach me not to check.

So I had to remove all of the wood chip and lay some more (better quality) weed suppressant and then put the wood chip back……I have got to say it was really hard work!  Hopefully this will work this time.

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A couple of weeks ago I picked my saved pea pods from my pea plants and left them to continue to dry for a couple of weeks in my kitchen on trays.  This week Mr Thrift helped me to ‘pod’ the peas so I can use the seeds next year.

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I store the seeds in an envelope in a tin, which will be placed in a cool, dark place.

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Finally, the first of my melons from my polytunnel was ready this week.  They are a variety called ‘outdoor wonder’.

The melons aren’t really big, but they are really sweet and delicious.  I grew them last year for the first time and I know I will be growing them every year from now on.  According to the packet they can be grown outdoors, though I grow them in my polytunnel just in case we have a bad summer:

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That’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday as usual.

  I hope you have a good week.