Tag Archive | Thinning leeks

‘Hardening Off’ & Homemade Yoghurt

I love May in the garden as all the new shoots growing are so fresh, green and vibrant.

In my garden at home the dicentra is flowering, the euphorbia looks stunning and my hardy geraniums are beginning to flower too.  The wall flowers I transplanted from my old allotment are still looking stunning as well, giving the bees some welcome ‘spring’ pollen.

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This year however, it has felt like we have been having ‘April showers’ and ‘March winds’ in between some beautiful sunny ‘May days’…..with global warming I expect we will see more strange weather patterns over the coming years.

Nevertheless I have been harding off my plants ready for the threat of any frost to pass (usually at the end of this month where I live).

My hanging baskets and pots sit out all day now and are growing well….

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…And some of my plants are harding off on my table in the day time and are brought inside in the evening….

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….And some are left in my cold frame all day and I close it at night:

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Hardening off plants:

“Hardening off” plants allows them to adapt to outside conditions before they are planted in their final positions.  There are two ways to do this:

1) Put your plants in a cold frame and gradually open the window of the cold frame more each day until it is fully opened or

2) Bring your plants outside for an hour or two for the first day and then gradually increase the time they spend outside each day.

The RHS suggest that hardening off plants properly takes approximately two to three weeks and Monty Don from Gardeners World says one week…..I usually aim for two weeks.

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Whatever stage of ‘hardening off’ you are at, it is important to keep checking the weather forecast in your area, as frost tender plants need to be brought in at night (or covered over) if a frost is forecast.

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In my greenhouse this week:

You will remember last week that one of the cucumbers that I grew from seed died due to ‘stem rot’  (cucumbers are suseptible to this when you over water them so I only have myself to blame).

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This week I went out and bought a replacement from my local nursery for 60p and planted it in a tub next to my remaining cucumber grown from seed:

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This week I also planted the basil that I sowed from seed on the 5th April, into it’s final growing place in my greenhouse next to the peppers that I also grew from seed on the 3rd March.

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  The bags they are growing in were bought from the supermarket as ‘garden tidy bags’, so it was a cheap way to grow crops in my greenhouse (which has a concrete floor).

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I have also planted my melons in larger pots, ready for them to grow.  When they are bigger I am hoping to train them along the top of my greenhouse, over my tomato plants.  Incidentally the melons were sown in newspaper pots so it was very easy to transplant them without any root disturbance, as I planted the newspaper pot straight into the compost:

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Another job was to transplant my butternut squash plants into larger pots.  I will leave them in the greenhouse for a few days and then I will also start to harden these off ready for planting out at the beginning of June:

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Finally in my greenhouse, I noticed the first tomato on one of my plants…..this means it is time to start the feeding once a week.  Previously at my allotment I would use a homemade ‘comfrey feed’ which is high in potash which is great for fruit and flowers….(you can read how to make a ‘comfrey feed’ here).  Unfortunately as I transplanted my comfrey only a couple of months ago, it isn’t ready to use yet, so I will be using a commercial organic tomato feed.

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Outside my greenhouse in my kitchen garden:

This week I have been planting my courgettes in the large pots I brought back from my allotment.  You may remember I planted some lettuce plants around the edges of the containers and they are doing well.  Hopefully the lettuces will be fully grown before the courgettes need the space:

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At the moment I am keeping them covered with the glass, just to give them an extra bit of heat to get them growing well.

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I have again thinned out the leeks that I sowed way back in March.  This is later than I normally sow my leeks and they are still small, so I am using the area where they will eventually be grown, to plant my lettuces.  I am growing them in succession so we have a good supply to eat over the summer months:

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As you can see in the photograph above, I covered the first lettuces that I planted to protect them from the pigeons (they used to eat the lettuces at my allotment if they weren’t covered).  This time I decided to not cover the newly planted lettuces to see what happens in my new kitchen garden – I will be watching the pigeons carefully!

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Finally in the garden this week I planted the cherry tomatoes that I sowed on the 5th April.  They are a variety call ‘Minibel’ which are supposed to be suitable for pots, containers and baskets….so I have taken their word and planted them in a hanging basket….I will let you how I get on over the weeks:

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At Home This Week:

This week I have had a big sort out of my three freezers.  I am not sure if I will still be using all three of them in the future, but at the moment they are still full of homemade goodies and homegrown fruit and vegetables.

I make sure I check what is in my freezers regularly as this helps when I plan my meals and it makes sure that everything is used and not forgotten about.  Just incase anyone is interested, I wrote and article about freezing crops here.

One of my three freezers

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I managed to get some ‘whoopsied’ brussells and banana’s this week from the supermarket, so I also froze the brussells for another day and I made a couple of banana cakes to slice and freeze too and I also made some banana and chocolate lollies.  I will share the recipes with you another time.

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I also make rolls to freeze for the week ahead.  I bake the rolls as usual and when they are cool I slice them in half and then pop the rolls in the freezer.  This way I can take a roll out of the freezer in the morning and pop the filling inside and it will defrost in my familys lunchboxes ready for them at dinner time.

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I also use my freezer for homemade ice cream too.  I made some nice and easy vanilla ice cream this week (the recipe is here).  You don’t need an ice cream maker to make ice cream, but it does take the hard work out of it….I bought mine from a charity shop for just £10 and it had never been used and was still in the box when I purchased it.

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This week we had family round for Sunday lunch.  I made a nice Rhubarb and Ginger cake for pudding, thanks to My friend Jeff who has brought me some rhubarb from his allotment and the wonderful person that left some Rhubarb on my doorstep when I was out last Saturday …I still haven’t managed to find out who it was, so if you are reading my blog this week – thank you.

Unfortunately my rhubarb in my new kitchen garden isn’t ready to eat, as it takes a year or two for it to establish properly before it can be picked.

The recipe for the Rhubarb and Ginger cake is here and it went lovely with a spoonful of the homemade vanilla ice cream:

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Finally this week I made some plain yoghurt.  I haven’t made yoghurt for a while and Mr Thrift likes to take it to work for his lunch, so I dusted my yoghurt maker down and finally made some.

A few years ago I was given an Easiyo Yoghurt maker.  You can see a similar one here.  The idea of an Easiyo Yoghurt maker is to use sachets of the Easiyo yoghurt mixes which you buy.  I don’t do this, as I think they are expensive and I like to make mine from scratch.

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This is an easy way to make yoghurt:

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You will need skimmed milk powder

UHT Milk

A yoghurt starter (see below)

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The first time you make yoghurt, you will need to buy a small amount of ‘live’ natural yoghurt, or ‘probiotic’ natural yoghurt.  This will give your yoghurt mix, the bacteria that it needs to make yoghurt.  Each time you make your own yoghurt, save 3 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt ready to start your next batch of homemade yoghurt.  Your starter can be frozen until needed.  I do this up to four or five times only, as the bacteria seems to weaken each time.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of skimmed milk powder into your yoghurt maker canister.  Half fill the canister with UHT milk and give it a good shake.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of ‘Yoghurt starter’ into the canister.

Top up the canister with UHT milk and give it another good shake.

Put boiling water into the Easiyo flask and then add the canister.

 Put the lid on and leave for approximately ten hours.

Take the canister out of the Easyio flask and then put it in the fridge to finish setting.

I then save 3 heaped tablespoons of the yoghurt and pop it in the freezer as a ‘yoghurt starter’ for the next time I make it.

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Enjoy the yoghurt plain, or with fruit mixed in.

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

Have a good weekend!

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A Very Cheap Fruit Cage & Sowing The ‘Big Boys’

**** Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 28th April ****

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My leeks are one of the first crops I sow in the new year and this year I sowed them on the 21st February.  They are a variety called ‘Musselburgh’.

Leeks are an easy crop to grow from seed.  I sow them in a seed tray and leave them inside my house until the moment they germinate and then I move them to my cold greenhouse to grow on.

No matter how I try, I always sow my leek seeds too thickly and at this time of year I end up having to carefully ‘thin’ them out.  ‘Thinning out’ is just a name for removing some of the plants, so that the remaining ones can grow to a decent size before you plant them out.

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I usually leave about one centimeter between plants.  You can see in the photographs below the tray before thinning and after thinning:

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Just one point to remember, it’s best to give your plants some water afterwards, to help settle their roots after any disturbance from the thinning:

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A lot of my time this week has been spent seed sowing.  I start most of my vegetable seeds off at home as I find I get a much better gemination rate as I can give them the exact conditions that the seeds like.

So this week I have sown my outdoor tomatoes, parsnips, beetroot, spring onions, spring broccoli, khol rabi, basil, coriander, swede, lettuce, turnips and perpetual spinach.

I have also started to sow what I call the ‘big boys’…my summer squashes.  I have sown butternut squash, pumpkins, patty pans, courgettes and my gherkins.  These are all sitting snug and warm in propagators behind our french doors at home.  Incidentally, I have had these propagators for years and they were so cheap to buy from places like Wilkinsons or the pound shop:

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I like to try out something new each year and this year I have decided to give the ‘cucamelon’ a go.  I have read various good and bad reviews about these, so I decided to bite the bullet and have a go myself.

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.

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I also sowed my climbing peas this week, they are a variety called ‘peashooter’.  I absolutely love this variety as the peas are so fat and juicy and I have never had a bad crop.  I saved the seeds from last years crop, as the seeds are expensive to buy and easy to save.

Because these seeds are so precious to me, I start them off in toilet rolls in my greenhouse, so I give them the best chance to germinate without mice eating them:

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I also like to have some salad leaves handy at home, ready to use, so I started off some mixed salad leaves this week too.

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I used an old grocers box with an old compost bag to line it.  I fill it with compost, sow the seeds and then cover the seeds with a little more compost.  I then just place the box and in my greenhouse and give it a good water.

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Below are some mixed salad leaves that I sowed in exactly the same way on the 6th March.  So you can see they don’t take long to grow, as these are nearly ready:

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I use them as a ‘cut and come again’ crop, as once you cut them they grow again.

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The green house is filling up nicely now.

  You can see in the photograph below that I started to ‘pot on’ my greenhouse tomato plants (which just means to put them in a bigger pot) but unfortunately I ran out of compost, so I only managed to do two of them.  I will do the other ones over Easter:

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At my allotment this week I finally painted the wood around the new area that surrounds my blackberries.

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I also began a project to smarten up the area in front of my utility area. I put some wood down to surround my bed and finished it off with a lick of wood stain too.

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I also planted a clematis that my daughters bought me for Mother’s Day.

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I planted the clematis to climb up the old swing that I brought to the allotment a couple of weeks ago.  I made sure the clematis was planted deeply and I covered the roots with stones to guard against ‘clematis wilt’.

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The clematis I planted over the other swing last year, was an early flowering clematis called ‘montana’.  The new clematis will flower during summer, so hopefully it will look beautiful climbing over the swing.

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This week I also put up my D-I-Y, no nails or screws, fruit cage.

I can’t afford one of those lovely fruit cages you can buy that just slot together and myself and Mr Thrift are not very good at D-I-Y, so a few years ago I came up with the idea of using canes, bottles and netting and it had worked brilliantly over the years.

Fruit netting should really be taken down over the winter so the birds can eat the grubs that pupae under the fruit bushes, so my cage works great as it’s only needed for a few months in the year.

All I do is make holes in the bottles to hold up the canes and push the supporting canes into the ground:

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I find that the plastic bottles that cheap handwash comes in, are the best bottles to use as the plastic is soft and doesn’t go brittle and can be used time and time again:

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After the canes and bottles were up I just pegged down the netting and the result is a very cheap fruit cage:

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I also dug up some of my remaining leeks this week and made the most enormous pot of leek and potato soup, also using my last few homegrown potatoes from last year.

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I managed to get nine portions of soup to freeze and I also sent some of it down to my In-laws for lunch.  I always feel good when I have made meals out of homegrown vegetables.  I find it so satifying.

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Finally, I decided to change the signs that show my plot number, as the old ones were really scruffy.  I used some old wood and the posts from the old signs and gave them a lick of paint.  I then used my daughter acrylic paints for the colours.  I still have two more posts to paint yet.

Wilkinsons were selling some of their paints and varnishes off cheap and I managed to get a small tin of varnish for just 50p (which I was really quite proud of).

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So I have now given my new signs their first coat of varnish.  I’m not really an artist as you can see, but I’m quite pleased with them so far (even though they are a bit ‘girlie’)….

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Anyway, it’s time for me to go now.

I am going to take a couple of weeks off writing, to spend time during the Easter school holidays with my daughters.

So I will be back on Monday 28th April.

I will be around to read and answer your comments so please them coming, as it’s lovely to hear from you.

Thank you for reading my blog today and have a good easter.