Tag Archive | Dandelions

Why Flowers Are Great To Grow On Your Vegetable Plot…

It has felt like summer has finally arrived this week and it’s been too hot for me in the garden, though I am not complaining as my garden has loved the sunshine at last and so has Judy….

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What I have noticed at our local park this week:

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This year the park keepers have left some grass areas uncut at our local park and for the last few weeks I have seen different wildflowers growing.  These flowers may not be unusual, but on mass they have looked stunning.

It started with the dandelions which are a common perennial herb that are part of the sunflower family.  This is the weed we all tend to dread in our gardens as they spread so easily, but they have so many uses and they really are a fascinating plant:

“Dandelions prefer chalk and loamy soils above a pH of 7.0. It has been found in prehistoric deposits, and has been recorded up to 2,700 feet in Britain.

The flower opens in the morning and then closes in the evening and a flower head can produce up to 400 seeds, but the average is 180. A plant may have a total of 2,000 to 12,000 seeds and individual plants may survive for 10 to 13 years in undisturbed sites”

No wonder the average gardener doesn’t like them!

(Below is a brilliant photo that my daughter took):

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After the dandelions the buttercups emerged coating the field with pretty yellow flowers which are still there at the moment and look spectacular on the field backed by the bright white cow parsley.

I also noticed the buttercups at the side of a busy main road road last week as we were driving home….nature is so wonderful!  I wonder how many people in cars have driven past this display without even noticing.

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But this week it is the turn of the red clover flowers and the ox-eye daisy and the display is the most impressive of all to me:

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I’m not sure if the council are trying to save money by not mowing the grass in certain areas, or if the flowers were intentional….whatever the reason, the outcome is beautiful and there are insects buzzing all around!

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Flowers in my kitchen garden this week:

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Nature manages to put flowers in every little suitable spot it can.  Unfortunately, our allotments and kitchen gardens need most of the space to be taken up by fruit and vegetables, but by leaving a few nettles at the back of your plot and adding flowers in every suitable spot available (as nature does), we can attract many insects to out plots – which in turn will pollinate our crops and feed on the ‘nasty’ bugs that we don’t want AND look pretty:

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Four of the ‘good’ bugs attracted to flowers:

Bees – Flowers encourage bees, which in turn pollinate your crops.  They are active from late winter until autumn, so I try really hard to have plants in flower during all these months.

Lacewings – These are voracious predators as the larvae and adults feed on caterpillars, thrips, mealy bugs and aphids.  They are especially attracted by Cosmos flowers, coreopsis and sweet alyssum.

Soldier Beetles – Unfortunately these beetles do eat the good bugs as well as the bad, but they do help to control aphids and caterpillars.  They particularly like catnip and goldenrod.

Ladybirds (sometimes called Lady beetles or lady bugs) – Ladybirds love to eat aphids, scales, spider mites, mealy bugs, etc. which is why most people recognize these as a beneficial insect.  It’s their larvae that eat the most of the ‘bad’ insects and can get an infestation under control in no time.  Ladybirds are attracted to the parsley family i.e. parsley, dill, fennel, carrots etc.

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If you look closely in the photograph above you can see two bees on my comfrey flowers.  It was easy to take photo’s of the bees as there were so many buzzing around the plant….this also applies to the chive flowers which line my central path and lookgreat at the moment:

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For years I have grown Calendula as they look so pretty and self seed like mad so you only need to buy a packet of these seeds once….and the flowers are edible and the petals look fabulous scattered over a bowl of salad.  This week my first two flowers appeared:

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 I used to grow nasturtiums around my dalek compost bins at the allotment, as these help to surpress weeds nicely….they also provide great ground cover around longer growing vegetables like brussells, spring broccoli and kale.  They attract blackfly so I continue to plant them in my kitchen garden around my runnerbeans as sacrificial plants (so the blackfly stay away from my beans) and as a bonus, the nasturtium leaves taste ‘peppery’ and again they are nice in a salad.

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At my allotment I used to grow sweet peas near runnerbeans to attract beneficial insects to pollinate them, so I get more beans to pick.  This year in my much smaller kitchen garden I have planted the sweetpeas in eight different places to attract insects, to look pretty and to pick a few to bring into our house as they smell wonderful….they are just beginning to flower now:

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Previously at my allotment I lined my paths with lavender and poached egg plants, again to attract beneficial insects that love the flowers.  The poached egg plants surpress weeds by covering the ground and self seeds easily….any plants that I didn’t want to keep would be dug into the soil and act as a green manure…..I really must find a place for some of these flowers next year in my kitchen garden:

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Previously I also grew Sunflowers at the allotment as the birds loved to feed on the seed heads in autumn…again I will be looking to see if I can fit a dwarf variety in my garden somewhere next year too:

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This year I planted tagetes and marigolds near my tomatoes in my greenhouse and along my central path in my kitchen garden as these help to deter white flies.  Both of them are now beginning to flower:

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Years ago when I took on my first allotment I was told I grow too many flowers and plots were for fruit and vegetables.  I am really hoping that my blog inspires other people to grow a few flowers around their plots, as there are so many benefits for the organic grower.

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I’ll finish today with a few photo’s of flowers growing in my small kitchen garden at the moment.  However, I am hoping there will be plenty more still to come over the coming weeks:

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

Have a great weekend!

XX

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Manure & Odd Job Week

We have had a mix of wet and dry weather this week here in the East Midlands, but Wednesday was absolutely glorious and it felt like Spring was here already…the sun made everything look more beautiful, especially the waves of snop drops and crocus in our local park:

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One thing I wasn’t expecting to see this early was my first dandelion of the year….this is a reminder that soon it will the time to weed my kitchen garden on a weekly basis:

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The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is actually a wonderful plant, though we do tend to see it as a nuisance weed.  In actual fact it is an excellent food plant for many beneficial insects and it provides an important food source to bees…and bees need our help in every way possible at the moment due to their decline in numbers over recent years.

I wrote a lot of interesting facts about dandelions here if you have a spare five minutes to read them….it does make you see this ‘nuisance’ weed in a completely different light.

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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This week I have been spreading manure over the beds that I will be growing my brassicas and potatoes in this year.  This is usually a job I start to do when the beds become empty in November, but I am a little bit late this year:

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I decided to buy bags of composted organic manure as I have nowhere to store fresh manure while it composts down.  Ironically, the six bags I bought from the garden centre cost me £24 which is just £1 less than I used to pay the organic farmer who would deliver manure to my four allotments….his manure used to last me two to three seasons when I used it on all four plots:

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“Animal manure is a wonderful soil conditioner which also adds a small amount of nutrients to the soil.  Some animal manures add more nitrogen than others and if you apply it fresh, the nitrogen will ‘burn’ and kill plants.  Compost fresh manure for at least six months before using it”

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I lightly forked my new bags of organic manure into my beds and it looked and felt like compost.  This is a long way from the manure I used to use from the farmer, as this was heavy and stuck in clumps, where as my ‘bagged’ manure could be raked easily over the soil….but it was expensive.

As I forked it into the soil I found quite a bit of different bindweed roots.  I know from experience that you need to keep on top of this weed if you don’t want to use chemicals to kill it.  I keep pulling it out as soon as I see it, as it spreads very quickly if I don’t.  Eventually the plant will weaken and give up, but this can take a long, long time.

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Eventually I want to stop using manure and just use compost (mainly made by me), but for now I wanted to put some ‘umph’ in the soil (as my wonderful old allotment friend Eric used to say to me), to improve my soil and add a few nutrients (though I will still be using a slow release fertiliser like blood, fish and bone before I sow / plant my crops).

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This week in the home:

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This week I have continued to clean my kitchen cupboards.  I am very sad to say amongst my recipe books I found two of the same books, they were just printed at different times but have exactly the same recipes inside.  This just shows me I don’t read my books enough after buying them, so I am going to try and make a conscious effort to look through and use all of my recipe books from now on!

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I have also caught up with a few little jobs that I have been putting off, like cleaning my fridge:

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…..And fixing the hook in the kitchen that for two years has twisted round and around when you hook the curtain tie back on to it!  It took me less than five minutes to fix it with ‘hard as nails’ adhesive:

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I also fixed the curtain holdbacks in the bedroom I recently decorated for my daughter:

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So this bedroom is completely finished now and I am really, really pleased with how it looks and so far my daughter has kept it tidy:

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 This week I also made Mr Thrift some valentine chocolates.  I managed to get a silicone mould in the sales last year for £2.  I just melted a bar of Mr Thrift’s favourite chocolate in the microwave and then poured the melted chocolate into the silicone mould (I didn’t bother tempering the chocolate either).  I let the chocolate set (out of the fridge) and then pushed the chocolates out of the mould.

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I also had enough left over chocolate to make my daughters a few chocolate lollies using a silicone lolly mould I had tucked away.

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If you look carefully at the hearts above, you can see that each heart has a couple of ‘valentine’ words on.

I wrapped them up in cellophane and gave them to Mr Thrift on valentines day.  He really liked them thank goodness.

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It just goes to show you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a gift…..it really is the thought that counts!

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Finally last weekend we celebrated my daughters 18th birthday at a Toby Carvery.  I wanted to mention this as the manager was absolutely brilliant.

My daughter said she didn’t want a party and asked us to go for a quiet meal with her….but then two weeks ago she decided she wanted to ask this person and that person, until the number of people she had asked totalled forty!

So we spoke to the manager at the restaurant and he arranged for everyone to be seated in just one area and allowed us to come a couple of hours earlier to decorate it with banners and balloons:

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The manager even gave us a table to place the cake and presents on, which he could have quite easily given to someone else.

Everyone had a lovely time, the food was great and the staff fell over themselves to help.

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My daughter certainly had a wonderful birthday!

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Well that’s it for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!