Archives

Planting Potatoes, Peas And More….

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

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

IMG_3508

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

IMG_3507

.

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

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

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

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

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

Deer in the distance lying down

Deer in the distance lying down

.

Castle Gardens:

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

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

IMG_3528 IMG_3550

IMG_3542 IMG_3558

IMG_3554 IMG_3556 IMG_3546 IMG_3540 IMG_3524

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

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

.

Leisure  – By William Henry Davies

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

 .

.

This Week In My Garden:

.

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

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

IMG_3501 IMG_3520

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

IMG_3519 IMG_3518

.

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

IMG_3510

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

IMG_3512 IMG_3513

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

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

IMG_3514

.

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

IMG_3565

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

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

IMG_3572

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

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

IMG_3568

.

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

IMG_3522

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

IMG_3582 IMG_3588

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

IMG_3590 IMG_3581

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

IMG_3591

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

IMG_3593

.

.

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

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

IMG_3577

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

Have a great week!

Advertisements

Pear Rust & A ‘Judy’ Update

After reading last weeks comments, I realised that a few people out there also have a nice, old fashioned ‘English tea’ similar to the one we had last week, which is nice to know.

This got me thinking about other things I used eat when I was younger and I remembered that on a Sunday my dad would always make a cooked breakfast.  Now this isn’t too unusual, however while he cooked he would feed me and my sisters raw bits of sausage and we would suck on the raw rind of the bacon!!!!….I’m surprised we weren’t really, really poorly.

It’s funny but I can still taste the sausage now and I have to admit it was lovely!   I wonder if anyone else reading my blog today ate raw sausage and raw bacon rind too?….it’s not something that is advised nowadays!

SAM_2060

.

A ‘Judy’ Update:

.

For those of you that don’t know, Judy is our lovely rescue dog that we have had for eleven months now…..unfortunately she came with a lot of problems and we recently found out that we were her fourth owners.  Our first behaviourist suggested we should give her up as she was untrainable and in the wrong environment, but thank goodness we didn’t.

We have been training since the beginning of May with Steven Havers (a different trainer) and the results have really been amazing!  Finally this last week I have started to walk to the park (instead of drive) as she can now tolerate the traffic well (except for the very large lorries).  This is something that used to really make her stressed.

She can also walk with other dogs on the park now and is fine if another dog runs up to her.  But the most amazing thing this week is….I have started to let go of her long training lead when I walk her on the park, so I am not holding her (this way I can pick it up if she strays too far, though her  ‘recall’ is much better now too).

SAM_1460

So things are going very well with Judy and other dog walkers are now commenting on how well she is doing……one particular lady who has seen me walking Judy from the beginning spoke to me this week and said how well she was doing and said to me that “I have given Judy her life back”…… and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day as it made me feel so proud!

She still gets anxious if there are lots of people around and dogs on leads are sometimes still a problem, but I will keep working on this.

SAM_1455

I am so glad we didn’t give Judy up as we all absolutely adore her.

.

This week in the garden:

.

This week I noticed that my Cosmos has finally started to flower properly and it looks beautiful together with the orange berries of the pyracantha that the birds love to eat:

SAM_2058 SAM_2056

The grass on my newly laid lawn is rooting well and as it was growing well, I ran the lawn mower over it, on its highest blade setting.  I will leave the grass a couple more weeks before removing my ‘make shift’ fence from around it, so we can walk on it properly:

SAM_2018

This week I decided to cut back the Viburnum tinus that was casting far too much shade over my one raised bed.  I planted the Viburnum when we first moved into the house thirteen years ago and I didn’t really want to cut the whole plant down, so I took away some of it as a compromise….hopefully this will make a big difference to the light in this area:

SAM_2031 SAM_2033

In the end I removed a ‘car load’ of branches (which we took to the tip the next morning), but by the time we had filled the car the moon was shinning!  This really made me realise that the nights are drawing in quickly now autumn is here:

SAM_2032

.

This week I planted some spring cabbages in my kitchen garden after raking some blood, fish and bone into the soil.  I made some cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly, as the odd one may still be laying eggs at this time of year and I then used my usual method of using canes and bottles to support a net over the cabbages, so the birds don’t eat them:

SAM_2028 SAM_2029

.

I also planted some more lettuces which will hopefully last until the really harsh weather of winter comes our way.  As the nights are getting colder, I decided to cover them with a cloche to give them a bit of protection:

SAM_2040 SAM_2041

.

Unfortunately this week I noticed a problem with the pear trees that I planted this year… They have ‘Pear rust’ which is a fungus that unfortunately spreads long distances between pear trees and junipers, which I can’t do anything about.  Therefore all I can do is remove the infected leaves on my trees and hopefully, if it doesn’t become too bad, it won’t reduce future harvests too much.

SAM_2051 SAM_2053

You can read all about pear rust on the RHS website here.

.

This week I thinned out my tray of over wintering onions…..again I used scissors to cut off the ones I didn’t want, to stop any root damage to the remaining onions.  I will wait a couple of weeks now before I  plant them in the ground:

SAM_2015

  .

This week I also dug up the last of my ‘Desiree’ potatoes.  I left them out to dry for a couple of hours and then placed them in a sack to store them in a cool, dark place until required.  It seemed strange only having one sack of potatoes as I usually have lots of them to store, but at least this year I only had a few to dig up:

SAM_2009 SAM_2013

I have also put the garlic that I grew, in a cool dark place to store.  I didn’t think the garlic looked very big but when I separated a bulb the cloves seemed a decent size, so I was very pleased with it in the end:

SAM_2010 SAM_2011

.

I am STILL waiting for the sweetcorn to ripen, however the ‘Moneymaker’ tomatoes that I planted outside are finally turning red…..I am praying that we don’t have an early frost….I am watching the weather forecast very, very closely.

SAM_2047 SAM_1901

.

.

This week in the home:

.

I am still picking autumn raspberries and a few blueberries from my kitchen garden and my daughter stuffed as many as possible (together with fruit from my freezer) into the pancake that I made her this week:

SAM_2021 SAM_1413

.

Also this week I made a couple of plum cakes (one for us and one for my gardening forum):

SAM_2024

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the cakes after I cooked them, but this is how they look when cooked:

SAM_1756

.

Unfortunately we have now finished eating my homegrown onions for this year, all except the last few really small ones……

SAM_2019

I hate using the really small ones when I cook dinner as they are so fiddly when I’m in a rush, so I decided to pickle the last few instead:

SAM_2020 SAM_2025

.

And finally this week I topped my wine up with cooled, boiled water and it is bubbling away nicely…..I can’t wait to try some soon!

IMG_2673

.

So unfortunately that’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back next week as usual.

SAM_2057

Have a good week!

A Bargain Cabinet & Another Good Harvest

We have had some miserable, wet and cloudy days this week, but there has also been some beautiful sunny days where I have managed to sit for a while and watch the world go by.  I’ve noticed on these warm days the birds have sung beautifully, as if they are making the most of the final days of summer.

SAM_1904

A couple of time this week in my garden I have spotted a frog.  I don’t know if it is the same frog but it is very welcome in my garden as they love to eat slugs and snails.  I wasn’t quick enough to take a photo of it but below is a good photo of a frog I spotted at my allotment, waiting to pounce on a snail:

SAM_2782

This week in my garden I have started to ‘thin out’ the winter salads that I sowed a couple of weeks ago.  I used a pair of scissors again to chop off the seedlings that I didn’t want as this helps to stop any root disturbance on the remaining seedlings:

SAM_1884 SAM_1885

SAM_1886 SAM_1887

Also in my garden I took the tops off my main crop potatoes (as the foliage had died off)…

IMG_2645 IMG_2646

….and I then dug some of them up:

SAM_1938

These are a late variety called ‘Desiree’ which I have grown for a number of years.  I have found over the years that these potatoes don’t suffer so much slug damage as other varieties and they have a particularly good drought resistance if we have a dry summer and they always give me a good harvest….so I think they are a good main crop to grow.

‘Desiree’ potatoes are also a good all rounder in the kitchen, as they are great for mashing, roasting, chipping, baking and boiling too.

Unfortunately though I noticed that a few of my potatoes are suffering from ‘Scab’:

SAM_1939

“Scab can be caused by dry conditions when the tubers are forming and it is worse in alkaline soil.  Therefore if you are going to be liming your soil to increase the Ph level to avoid club root, this is best done after you have grown potatoes in rotation with your other crops”.

I do know my soil is very alkaline, so this is probably the reason for the scab on my potatoes, however I will just peel them and they will be fine to eat so I am not worried.

.

This week I also cleared away my french beans as they have finished producing:

IMG_2645 IMG_2648

I didn’t keep any of the seeds as I wasn’t really impressed with this variety, however I forgot to write down the name of variety.  Next year I will go back to growing a variety called ‘Maxi’ as they produce lovely thin, stringless beans with the advantage that the beans are grown above the foliage so they are easy to pick.

'Maxi' frenchbeans grown at my allotment in the past

‘Maxi’ frenchbeans grown at my allotment in the past

.

The weather has certainly been strange this year and plants have been getting confused.  I saw on Gardeners World last week that Monty Don has Foxgloves in flower, which usually flower in Spring.  I have found my Primroses are in flower too….I wonder what will happen to them in Spring?

SAM_1919

.

This year I have grown two different tomato varieties outside.  ‘Outdoor Girl’ has been producing tomatoes for weeks now, but this has always been an early variety which I grow to produce a good harvest before the dreaded ‘blight’ hits…. this is something I haven’t seen this year thankfully.

I have also grown a variety outdoors this year called ‘Moneymaker’.  They have produced lots of big tomatoes which are yet to ripen….I am keeping my fingers crossed they all do, but I am finally seeing the odd one begin to turn red:

SAM_1927

I must say that over all, my outdoor tomatoes have produced a far bigger harvest than my greenhouse tomatoes, which I think is due to the cold, dull weather we had in April, May, June and July.

.

.

The patty pan plant that surprised me and began growing a month ago from a seed I had given up on, is now growing a couple of patty pans….if it doesn’t turn cold maybe I will have one or two to harvest?

SAM_1941

.

I am still waiting desparately for my sweetcorn to be ready.  You know it is ready to be picked when the tassells turn brown and a milky liquid comes out of the kernals when you press a nail into one……unfortunately the liquid is still clear in mine So we will have to wait a bit longer yet:

SAM_1901

.

This week’s harvest:

.

I am still astounded with the amount I have grown this year in my small back garden, though I am convinced that I can fine tune this and grow more next year.  One advantage of growing things in every inch of ground is there is certainly less weeding to do, which is a big advantage to me!

This week I thought it may be easier to show photos of what I have harvested:

SAM_1937 SAM_1936 SAM_1935 SAM_1933 SAM_1932 SAM_1922 SAM_1920 SAM_1917 SAM_1916 SAM_1908 SAM_1910 SAM_1897 SAM_1876

SAM_1874 SAM_1928

So you can see why I am so pleased with my new kitchen garden.

.

.

This week in the home:

.

I made passata again using my home grown tomatoes and froze it ready to use in the winter:

SAM_1882 SAM_1883

I also froze the parsley, again so I can use it during the winter months for garlic bread and parsley sauce.  I just cut the leaves off, wash them and put them in a freezer bag.  When they are frozen they crumble easily in the bag:

SAM_1898

.

I made some more of my ‘vinegar spray’ which I use in my kitchen as a multipurpose antibacterial cleaner.  I make it by adding a few drops of Tea Tree essential oil to white distilled vinegar and it is as good as any antibacterial kitchen cleaner that you can buy and it is an awful lot cheaper too:

SAM_1881

.

Mr Thrift has continued to find some really good ‘whoopsies’ this week and it has meant that I haven’t made any homemade bread.  Some of the bread he has found has been reduced to just 9p……so we couldn’t resist it!

SAM_1875

.

Finally, since I decorated our front room I have been looking in charity shops for things to make the room more homely.  One thing I have been trying very hard to find is a cupboard to match the darkwood TV cabinet we have….and this week I found one:

IMG_2650

It cost me just £40 and I was really pleased with my find….until I got it home and realised that we have a little gas pipe in the alcove where I wanted it to go, so it didn’t fit.

So I had to saw a bit off the side praying it wouldn’t look too bad.

SAM_1888

In my shed I still had a bit of dark woodstain that I used on my mirror years ago, so I used this to darken the wood that I had cut so it wasn’t so noticable…..and I am really pleased with the result (thank goodness):

SAM_1892 SAM_1894

Now I just need to keep looking for a few pictures for the walls and we need to buy a new carpet (when we can afford it).

.

 SAM_1942

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

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

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!

SAM_1636

——————————————-

.

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!

IMG_2559

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:

IMG_2586 IMG_2559 IMG_2562 IMG_2595 IMG_2568

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)

IMG_2570SAM_6843

.

In my kitchen garden this week:

.

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.

SAM_1612

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

.

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’.

SAM_1614 SAM_1615

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

SAM_1600 SAM_1595 SAM_1599

 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:

SAM_1608

.

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:

SAM_1635

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.

SAM_1625SAM_1626

.

“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”

SAM_2401 SAM_2403

.

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:

SAM_1628 SAM_1629

.

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:

SAM_1602

 .

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):

SAM_1616 SAM_1609 SAM_1607 SAM_1603 SAM_1594 SAM_1622 SAM_1635 SAM_1615

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.

SAM_1630 SAM_1631

.

This week at home:

.

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!

SAM_1586 SAM_1588

.

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

SAM_1584 SAM_1585

.

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.

SAM_1576

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:

SAM_1579 SAM_1580

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

SAM_1581 SAM_1582 SAM_1583

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!

.

SAM_1590

.

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

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:

IMG_2361IMG_2359

IMG_2362

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.

IMG_2366 IMG_2368

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

IMG_2358

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.

.

.

SAM_0903

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.

SAM_0712

.

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:

SAM_0891

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”.

SAM_0892 SAM_0894 SAM_0895

 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”.

SAM_0896

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.

.

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:

SAM_8784

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:

SAM_0900

.

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).

SAM_0898

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.

SAM_0888 SAM_0889

.

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.

SAM_0914

.

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:

SAM_0878

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:

SAM_0879 SAM_0911

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:

SAM_0886 SAM_0887

.

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.

SAM_0904

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:

SAM_0907 SAM_0909

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

SAM_0905

.

.

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:

SAM_0915

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.

.

.

‘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.

SAM_0902

.

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.

My First Crops And ‘Pricking Out’ Seedlings

My life has changed so much over the last year for one reason or another and at times I have found the changes very hard to come to terms with, especially having to give my four allotments up.  But my family mean the world to me and this is the way it has to be for the moment.

I have tried very hard not to think about my old allotment plots and make the best of what I do have, which is why I created my new kitchen garden:

(Below are my ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos):

SAM_0234 SAM_0767

In the beginning I think Mr Thrift thought I was mad digging up the back garden, especially as it looked like such a small area.  However, I knew it was bigger than it looked because I had crawled under the bushes at the back of the garden to see where the boundary fence actually was.

The soil was awful too….a very heavy clay which I could easily have made a few ‘clay pots’ out of, but I forked in lots of council ‘green waste’ compost (£2 for a very large bag) and a few bags of organic manure, I can already see how much the soil has improved.

SAM_0755 SAM_0714 SAM_0715

I have started to put some flowers into my new plot to attract some beneficial insects to it.  It is beginning to look pretty in places now and I have already noticed some bees buzzing around.

The Forget-me-nots and Aubrietia that I brought back from my allotment

The Forget-me-nots and Aubrietia that I brought back from my allotment

.

The weather here has been lovely over the last week or so and I have started to see some benefits to have a vegetable plot in my back garden.  I have found that I can pop out and pull up a few weeds when I want to, or just check my plants over when I have just a few minutes to spare and I can also go out very early in the morning or at dusk to finish off a few jobs…..I have even walked around it sometimes in my dressing gown and slippers (I hope my neighbours didn’t see me, as I do look a sight in the morning).

I have found it is also lovely to be able to go inside to warm up with a hot drink if it’s cold or to cool down in the middle of the day when it’s hot (like it has been this week).  And I mustn’t forget to say that it is really nice to go to the toilet when I want to as well.

I couldn’t do these things at my allotment.

SAM_0731 SAM_0732

I am having to learn how to cram as much as possible in a small space and use every bit of space that is available in my garden and my greenhouse.

The photographs above show the cut and come again salad mix that I sowed at the beginning of March in old containers from the supermarket.  They have been growing in my greenhouse and this week we had some for tea.

We have also been eating a few of the chives that I brought back from my allotment in January and planted along my new path.

SAM_0768

It really is nice to nip out and pick something when I feel like it, rather than planning what I must pick each day and bringing back it home from my allotment.

.

So even though I am still sad to have given my allotment plots up, I am seeing some lovely benefits for having a small kitchen garden at home.

.

.

In My Kitchen Garden This week…..

This week my new compost bins were delivered.  I ordered two galvanised metal bins to replace the plastic ones I used before in my garden as compost bins.

SAM_0734

Unfortunately my neighbours recently had a rat set up home in their shed and this made me worry that the compost in my new kitchen garden (that is close to our house) would attract the rats too.

  For years at my allotment I had problems with rats in my black darlek compost bins (even though I never put anything into them that I shouldn’t have).  At one stage I purchased rodent proof bottoms for the darlek bins and the rats just bit a hole through them to get in!

The only way I managed to deter them from going into my darlek compost bins at the allotment was by taking the lids off all winter and making sure the contents were wet (as rats don’t like the wet and cold).  However at home, I didn’t want to attract the rats at all, which is why I have bought the metal bins, which hopefully they won’t be able to bite into.

I have already started to fill them and I can see I will need to buy more in the future:

SAM_0741

.

This week I have started to ‘harden off’ some of my plants, ready to plant out soon.  The cabbages, spring onions and peas are now sitting in my cold ‘mini’ greenhouse which I leave open in the day and shut at night:

SAM_0760 SAM_0758

I have sown some seeds directly into my soil outside this week too….kohl rabi, turnip, radish and beetroot.  I always had problems sowing seeds directly in my heavy clay soil at my allotment as the germination rate was so low – so this is really a trial and i’m not sure what will happen.  I have covered the seeds with wire to protect them from the birds (I brought the wire back from my allotment in January):

SAM_0761 SAM_0762

I have also planted my potatoes.  If you have been reading my blog for a long time you will know I usually plant three varieties at my allotment- Marfona (2nd early), piccasso (early main crop) and Desiree (a late main crop).  Obviously this year I don’t have the luxury of space and I can only plant a very small amount of seed potatoes, so I chose to grow twelve Desiree potatoes (as these are the least suseptable to slug and eel worm) and six Marfona seed potatoes, as I do love the taste of these new potatoes.

As usual I pulled a trench out of the soil with my draw hoe and then used a bulb planter to make the hole deeper:

SAM_0735 SAM_0736

I also had four Marfona seed potatoes spare, so I put them in one of my old plastic compost bins:

SAM_0743 SAM_0742

I covered the potatoes with compost and I will add more to the bin each time the foliage grows.

.

I also planted some sweet peas this week.  I put some pea netting up for them to climb and I covered them with bottles to stop the slugs while they are establishing themselves:

SAM_0757

I also sowed some wildflower seeds around them – this is earlier than I normally sow these seeds, but the wall should bring the temperature in the area up a degree or two.

.

One of the other things I did this week was to make up my hanging baskets.  I must confess, I did buy the small plants from our local nursery (as I have been so disorganised this year), but it is still alot cheaper than buying a ready made basket.

Hopefully  next year I will grow the plants myself from seed.

SAM_0766 SAM_0744 SAM_0763

As you can see, I use an empty compost bag turned inside out for my baskets.  I like to reuse things when I can and the trailing plants I have used will hopefully cover the bags anyway.

I have already started to harden the baskets and pots, by leaving them outside for a few hours each day.  Even when they are fully hardened off I will continue to bring them back inside my greenhouse if a low temperature or frost is forecast.

.

I have also been ‘pricking out’ the seeds that have germinated this week.

SAM_0745

I now have cherry tomatoes (which will eventually go into a hanging basket), outdoor tomatoes which I will grow in pots, some basil to grow in my greenhouse and finally some more lettuce.  All of these will stay in my greenhouse until they are bigger and the risk of frost has past, except for the lettuce that will be hardened off a lot sooner than the others:

SAM_0771SAM_0770SAM_0769

I have also ‘potted on’ my greenhouse cucumbers into large pots….I can’t wait for these to produce fruit as we eat a lot of cucumbers in our house:

SAM_0751

.

So it’s been another busy week in the ‘Thrift’ garden.

.

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

Have a good weekend!

Homemade Cleaners and Homemade Cabbage Collars

I don’t really know where to start today.  After I had a rest last weekend (as I felt under the weather) I have been working in ‘overdrive’ mode ever since and I have achieved such a lot.

  The rest obviously did me some good.

.

At home I made some more dishwasher liquid, using the soap nuts that I bought a few years ago.  I use the liquid for two washes and then I use a ‘value’ dishwasher tablet for one wash and this seems to stop the grease from building up inside the dishwasher.

You can read about how I make the liquid here.

SAM_9001 SAM_9004

I also made some more ‘multi-purpose vinegar spray’.  I use this to clean down my work surfaces in my kitchen, our table mats, my cooker hob, etc.  It is really cheap to make and it lasts ages, but more importantly I know what goes into it.

All I use is distilled white vinegar (which most supermarkets sell for approx. 45p a bottle), and a few drops of ‘Tea Tree Oil’ (which I buy from Wilkinsons).

Distilled white vinegar is great as it’s cheap to buy and cuts through grease and dirt and is antibacterial too, so it kills most germs.  It does smell when you first spray it, but the smell doesn’t linger and no one will know you have used it.

White vinegar is milder than malt vinegar and dries odourless.

I mix the vinegar with a few drops of Tea Tree Oil which has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties too.

This makes a fantastic natural multi-purpose cleaner and it lasts for ages:

SAM_8631

.

I also decided it was time to add a couple more shelves in my pantry, in the hope that I can store more food in there (instead of our bedroom, which isn’t very romantic).

I bought a couple of cheap shelves from B & Q, put them up in a couple of hours and then painted them with some leftover white paint that we had in our shed.

I am very pleased with them and I will fill them when I do my next ‘big’ shop:

SAM_9007 SAM_9006 SAM_9008

.

At the allotment the poached egg plants (Limnanthes) are looking beautiful lining my centre path.  They are providing a much needed early source of pollen for the bees and it is wonderful watching them.  There are also loads of ladybirds around the flowers, which is brilliant as they are such a beneficial insect to have around the plot, eating any aphids that come my way.

SAM_9010 SAM_9020

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but at the beginning of the year I contacted Leicester City Council and asked them if I would be allowed to keep bees at my allotment.  As I have four plots, I have ample room and I had spoken to my allotment neighbour who thought it was a brilliant idea and he was quite happy for me to do this.

I wanted to make sure it was ok with the council (who I rent the plot from) before I spent money on a bee keeping course and equipment, as my garden at home is not big enough.

Unfortunately, Leicester City Council said I can’t keep bees at my allotment plot because bees are classed as ‘lifestock’ and the rules say that lifestock cannot be kept on their allotment plots, but more importantly to them – keeping bees would cause ‘health and safety’ problems.

I was dissapointed, but I felt there was nothing more I could do.

But to my surprise this week, I have found that some bees have now set up home in one of my leaf mould compost bins….I find this really amusing and I wonder what Leicester City Council would say to that?…..surely this causes a health and safety problem?

It’s nice to see that nature doesn’t bother with health and safety regulations….if it did then mankind would be in a mess!

SAM_9063

.

This week at my allotment I have been ‘earthing up’ my potatoes.  It is a job I hate as I find it really hard work….it’s the only time I wish I had the strength of a man!

‘Earthing up’ the potatoes helps to protect them from any late frosts and it also increases the length of underground stems that will bear potatoes. 

SAM_9027 SAM_9026

.

I have also been planting things at my allotment this week.

I planted red and white cabbages first:

SAM_9018

I make my own cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of my plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassicas 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.

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.

 SAM_6270

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.

SAM_8993 SAM_9019

.

At the allotment this week I also planted the last of my peas and mange tout that I sowed into guttering on the 21st April.

The birds love the tops of pea shoots at my allotment, so I make sure that they can’t get to them.

SAM_9038

.

I also planted out some more spring onions and some beetroot that I started in newspaper pots…

SAM_9064 SAM_9028

…And a pumpkin plant that was getting a bit too big for it’s newspaper pot.  It is a bit early for planting out tender plants in this area, as it’s possible to get frosts here until the end of May.  However, I have planted it in my old compost area and surrounded it with glass for protection, so hopefully it will be ok:

SAM_9052

.

Another job I did was put a new sticky paper and ‘lure’ into my pheromone traps, in the hope that it will attract the male codling moths and plum moths.

SAM_9031 SAM_9032

You can read about the codling moth here.

SAM_9033

.

I also started planting in my polytunnel.  I raked in some blood, fish and bone over the new compost I added a week or so ago and as the ground was so dry I dug holes for the plants and filled them with water and let it drain away before planting into them.

SAM_9041

I planted four melons which are a variety called ‘Outdoor Wonder’.  I planted them last year in my polytunnel and they were a great success, so I thought I would have another go this year.

‘Outdoor Wonder’ can actually be grown outdoors but I thought I would have better results growing them in my polytunnel.

SAM_9042

Below is a photograph of one of the melons I harvested last year and they tasted lovely:

SAM_7388

.

I also planted my gherkins, peppers and basil…

SAM_9045 SAM_9046 SAM_9058

…and some more lettuces:

SAM_9053

.

Every year I like to try something different, e.g. last year I grew the melon I wrote about above and a couple of years ago I tried growing shark fin melons:

You can read about my shark fin melon plant here and here.

.

….And this year I have decided to have a go at cucamelons.

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.

I sowed the seeds on the 10th April and I planted two of them this week in my polytunnel:

SAM_8769

SAM_9047 SAM_9048

I will let you know how they do in my polytunnel and if the ‘Thrift’ household likes the taste of them.

.

The polytunnel is fully planted for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze some more plants in somewhere as time goes by.

SAM_9054

.

I have been picking a few leaves from the salads in the above photograph and some radishes from my polytunnel and this week I picked our first spring cabbage.  I know it’s silly, but I still feel excited when I pick the first of each vegetable when it’s ready to eat.

SAM_9039

To finish off with, I noticed a couple of things at my allotment this week:

First my watercress that I sowed a couple of weeks ago has appeared.  You can read how I grow watercress in a pot here if you are interested.

SAM_9012

And secondly I have flowers on three out of four of the clematis I planted to climb up the old swings that are no longer in use.  They will be better in a couple of years when the plants are more established, but for now I am happy with a few flowers:

SAM_9023 SAM_9022 SAM_9021

.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.