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The Bones Of My Plot Is Complete & I Nearly Forgot The Bees!

I thought I would start by showing you a beautiful sunrise that I saw from my kitchen window this week.  A beautiful red sky…..and yes this was a warning of rain to come as later in the day it was very wet.

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The sun is rising earlier in the mornings now and after a few sunny days this week, it has really felt like Spring is on its way.

In fact this week I saw the first bee in my garden….

(sorry about the blurred photo as I rushed to capture it before it flew away)

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This made me realise that I have no early flowers for the hungry bees emerging.  I had worked hard over the years at my allotment to have flowers for the bees at all times, but I have to be honest I never gave the lack of flowers in my new kitchen garden another thought until this week.  I had planned to have flowers, but I hadn’t quite got around to planning them yet.

(The photographs below were from my allotment last year).

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So this week I visited my local garden nursery and I managed to buy some cheap ‘Tete-a-Tete’ daffodils. They were priced at £1.50 for four pots, so I planted some between my new fruit trees:

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Also, I bought a pot of later flowering daffodils and three primroses which I used to make up a hanging basket for outside my front door.  Unfortunately the basket did look a bit bare so I stole three of the pansies from the pots outside our back door and this filled out the basket nicely.

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I then turned my attention to pruning.

My bay tree was looking rather overgrown so I gave that a good prune, together with the three ‘Spiraea’ bushes in my front garden.  A good prune always makes the garden look neat doesn’t it.

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I also noticed that weeds were beginning to grow between the slabs in my front garden, so I weeded  them out using my wonderful weeding tool which I brought back from my allotment to use.  It really does make weeding between slabs easy:

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As the front of the house was looking better, I decided that my old front door mat was rediculously dirty and totally unwelcoming and I needed a new one.  I then remembered that somewhere deep in the cupboard under our stairs was a new one that I bought over a year ago, ready for when the building work on our kitchen was complete…..and I had totally forgotten about it!

So I threw our old mat away and placed the new one at our front door and the house definately looks more welcoming now:

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My New Kitchen Garden:

Last weekend I finally finished digging over my new kitchen garden and laying the paths around my fixed beds.

Mr Thrift helped me to buy more soil conditioner from our local nursery and I forked it into the remaining beds.  Incidentally, the soil conditioner I have been using is just £2 per large bag that you fill yourself and it comes from our local ‘green waste’ recycling centre.  It doesn’t have many nutrients in it like compost does, but it does help to improve the soil structure….and my heavy clay soil really needs this.

I also bought some organic manure  to fork into the beds I will be growing potatoes and brassicas in, as these plants are heavy feeders.  I used six bags of manure and each bag cost me £3.25, which is cheap for a bag of manure….however I will be looking at different ways to improve my soil next year.

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It was quite strange (and expensive) buying manure in bags, as I have always has plenty of organic manure at my allotment over the years……the tractor load of manure that I used to have delivered (in the photograph below) would last me for two years at my four allotments and only cost me £25!

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It will take me time to get used to the best way to grow vegetables on a smaller scale.

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This week I also put a plastic sheet over the beds that I will soon be planting my onions into.  Again I brought the plastic sheet back from my allotment, as it is great for warming the soil up a bit earlier.

I also used some of the weed suppressant that I won last year over a couple of beds.  These two beds were where our small lawn was (though it was really a mud patch after all the time I had walked on it while clearing the area).  So I turned the remaining grass upside down as this will help to kill it, together with the weed suppressant placed on top.

Please note I wouldn’t have done this if the grass was couch grass, as this needs to be covered for much longer to kill it completely! 

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I also moved my blueberry plants into their final location.  I have four blueberry plants in pots as they need an acid soil to grow and my soil is alkaline.  I plant the whole pot into the ground, which helps to stop the pots needing so much water in the summer.

I moved them to the shadier side of my new plot, which doesn’t get quite as much sunshine during the day, but this should be fine for them:

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One final thing I did this week in my new kitchen garden was to split the chives that I also bought back from my allotment.  I had just ‘heeled’ them into the ground until I got around to moving them.

I decided to place one small clump next to the path in each bed and eventually I will split them again and again until the path is fully lined with them, as we love chives in our salads and when they flower the bees love them too.

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So after some hard work, the bones of my new kitchen garden is complete and it is now waiting for the soil to warm up so I can begin planting.

As I have ‘fixed’ beds with paths around, I won’t need to tread on the soil again.  I am hoping that this will be the first and last time I will have to dig these beds.

Below are my ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs…..It was harder work than I thought it would be, due to the stones and rubble that were hidden, the rotten fence and the stumps that I found impossible to dig out of the ground on my own, but I got there in the end.

I am very proud of my new kitchen garden and I can’t wait to grow as many different fruit and vegetables as possible in it.  It will be quite a challenge in such a small space!

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Before:

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After:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.

 

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Weed Suppressant Paths And Parsnip Crisps

When I had my first allotment in 2005, I decided to have four rotational areas which I separated with Michaelmus Daisys and I must say they look beautiful in September each year when they flower.

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At first, I would walk all over the soil to plant things and dig it all over each winter.  This was easy to do with one plot but when I took on more plots four years ago, I had to re-look at how I did things.

I decided that in between each row of Michaelmus Daisys I would have four ‘fixed’ beds separated by paths, so I didn’t need to walk on the soil.  The only exception was my potato bed, where I would remove the paths each year and dig the whole area over.

I used weed suppressant that I cut to size for my paths and held it down with small tent pegs.  However, the wind had other ideas so I had to resort to holding it down with bricks instead.

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The bricks were not ideal as the slugs love hiding underneath them and I have often fallen over the bricks when I am not looking at my feet.  Also, the wind still blows the weed suppressant about, as you can see in the photograph below, but the worse thing is the weed suppressant frays like mad where I cut it and I have strands of it everywhere, which gets tangled up in my trowel, fork and even around my legs sometimes.

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  On the plus side however, the paths have been great as I didn’t need to walk on the soil, which meant I could weed when the ground was really wet (as I could just reach into the bed) and all I’ve needed to do each year is lightly fork the soil over if I wanted to and it doesn’t get compressed.

So I decided I needed to do something different.

I thought long and hard and considered the usual options of slabs (which would be far too expensive), wood chip paths (again expensive for the wood to edge the paths) and just plain soil paths (I tried this before and I spent ages weeding them).  In the end I decided to have another go at weed suppressant paths, but this time I was determined to do them properly with no edges to fray.

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I brought the weed suppressant from our allotment shop as it is only £2 per meter (with a width of four meters wide), so this is really good value, though it is a low grade weed suppressant that does need to be doubled.

I cut it into strips that were large enough to be doubled over and I left a couple of inches extra to sew the hems.

I found the weed suppressant would not pass through my sewing machine as it keep catching underneath, so after a whole morning of trying every way possible, I unfortunately had to edge the top and bottom of it with duct tape before I could manage to machine sew it.

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I sewed the sides together and then turned the weed suppressant inside out

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I then ironed the path flat (I was supprised I could iron it without it melting, but it was fine)

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I then sewed the ends up

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And then I used some Eyelets to stop it from fraying when I pinned it down onto the ground.  I also used a bit of duct tape before putting each eyelet on, to give the weed suppressant a bit more strength.

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I spaced the eyelets just wide enough to fit the double pins that I had bought, to hold the weed suppressant down.

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I’m hoping these pins will be better than the small tent pegs I used originally… but I will let you know when it is next windy.

I laid the paths at my allotment and I am really pleased with them.  I think the paths look much better without the bricks and fraying:

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If the new pins hold the paths down, then I will try and do the rest of the weed suppressant paths around my allotment over the next year or so.

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Parsnip Crisps:

I’ve not written a recipe on my blog for ages, so I thought today I would.

I like to use everything I grow in as many different ways that I can.  At the moment I still have parsnips at my allotment and it won’t be long before I need the space for something else.

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Parsnips are lovely roasted and I especially like them in a spicy parsnip soup or a nice parsnip cake.

You can also use parsnips to make ‘parsnip crisps’, which is something a little bit different and they taste wonderful when they are served warm.

  This is how I make them:

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Parsnip Crisps

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800g parsnips

6 teaspoons olive oil

Salt to taste

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Preheat your oven to Gas 3 / 160C /325F

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Wash, peel and slice your parsnips finely (I used my food processor for quickness, as it has a slicing attachment)

Rub the olive oil all over the parsnips

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Lay the parsnip slices on greased baking sheets

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And bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning half way through the cooking time

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While thay are still hot, sprinkle with salt and then enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.