Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Long over-due update

It's been far too long since I last did a post, but I've got several lined up to get back up to date. The school holidays didn't leave me much time to get out into the garden, but luckily there wasn't a great deal to do. Then we went away for a couple of weeks and inevitably the weeds and pests made themselves at home. I'm finally feeling on top of things again, so will find some time to finish off the waiting posts.

Overall, I've not done too badly considering the terrible weather we've had this year, but have learnt a few lessons along the way - there are some things I will definitely try again, and others I won't!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Time for some more salad

Wow, what a change in the weather - sunny and mid 20s!! I cleared out the first sowing of salad leaves and rocket a couple of weeks ago (see here) which left some space for more. So this morning, I made the most of the sunshine and sowed a wide row of mixed leaves (not spicy this time - a more traditional mix of lettuces) and another of basil.

Having watched Gardener's World last Friday, I'm feeling quite smug about my carrots - Monty Don only managed to harvest 3 tiny ones, whereas I've already pulled a few and have got lots more nearly ready. We love carrots, so I've put in some more today (Autumn King). Rather than a narrow row, I've sown the carrots in a wide row (as Monty Don did!) to see if that works better. I also put in the last 7 red onions that were still in pots. They've gone in next to the carrots in the hope that the smell keeps the carrot fly away.

We found the purple radishes a bit too strong to eat raw, so I've sown some traditional pink ones today (French Breakfast). Let's hope they're more palatable!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Innocent seeds update

Back in the Spring, I collected quite a few seeds from Innocent Smoothies and duly planted them (see here and here) and watered them. Unfortunately hardly any of them germinated (1 single carrot, no tomatoes). I followed the instruction on the first few packets, but the basil packs split open when I removed them from the packaging. I planted  the seeds anyway and this is what they look like now (after I pinched out a few of the growing tips for pizzas!). The seeds came in thinnish cardboard, but my feeling is that it was too thick for the seedlings to break through. I think I'm going to leave them in pots now, as all my bedding plants and the pot of basil I planted out have all been either eaten by pests, or washed away!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday 15th July

Well, today is St Swithun's Day, so according to the legend, whatever the weather does today will continue for the next 40. If that's the case, things are finally looking up - we've not had a drop of rain today (the first in far too long!). As a result, I managed to get out in the garden again. Our back garden is completely sodden and incredibly muddy - and that's just the lawn!

The tomatoes are growing nicely, although without a bit of sun they're not going to ripen very well.

I cleared the foliage from the Kestral potatoes in bed 6 today, and dug up most of the spuds. The foliage was beginning to go yellow and I was worried about blight setting in. I need to go through the bed a bit more thoroughly tomorrow in case I left any behind. I did find a couple of rotten ones today, along with alot of red ants - they were soon scurrying around to protect their eggs, and the sparrows had a feast! We had quite a few roasted for lunch (potatoes, not ants!) and the rest are in the salad drawer of the fridge for another day. I've never tried roasting new potatoes before, but I was following a recipe in "River Cottage Veg Everyday" - they were yummy, definitely one to do again.

I also harvested/thinned the spring onions today - we had this lot sliced on pizzas -another success!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nice surprises

Yesterday I decided to clear out the salad leaves and rocket that had bolted. I had intended to collect the seeds, but realised that I still have thousands of seeds left from this year. The chances of me successfully harvesting the seeds and then storing them, let alone remembering to use them next year seemed pretty slim. So, onto the compost heap it all went!

In the process I accidentally pulled up a spring onion. It's much more bulbous than I was expecting, but tasted lovely.

And I also found some self-sown alpine strawberries in the border. The strawberries I planted are not faring very well in the rain, but these were little(!) beauties.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Courgette flowers

After my early disasters (see here and here) with courgettes, I finally have a healthy plant and some flowers! The only problem is that they all seem to be males, i.e., no fruit bud behind the flower. I've looked this up and apparently it is quite normal. Although it can be caused by stress (inconsistent water or not enough fertiliser) it is normal that the first flush of flowers are all male, to be followed by females later. I'll just have to be patient...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Harvesting (in the rain!)

After all the waiting, we're now getting quite regular veggies! Amy and I picked a couple of strawberries this week (although they got eaten before I thought about a photo!) - they were a bit soft with all the rain, but very tasty all the same.

We've had quite a few more potatoes (Kestral) - they look so colourful, but unfortunately they loose the purple when they're cooked.

Yesterday I picked the first of the peas, carrots and purple radishes (and some more spuds!).
The peas were a great success - will definitely grow some more of these.

One of the carrots had split open. I've looked into this a bit and it seems the most likely cause is too much water (especially after a drier spell). Hmmm, we have had exceptional rainfall recently so I'll blame that.

The radishes look great, but the flavour is a bit overpowering to say the least - I may have found the strongest variety! I'm now looking for recipes that use cooked radish - so far I'm thinking radish curry (Kerala style) or chutney...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Harvesting my first spuds!

I'm so excited - I dug up my 1st Kestral potatoes tonight! It was all the more exciting as you have no idea what's hiding below the surface until you start poking around. These were the first few I found, and this should be enough for 1 meal so I stopped there. I can't wait to taste them!
PS They tasted absolutely great! - served with a knob of butter and a sprinkling of freshly picked garlic chives.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Looking good

A little bit of sun yesterday and things are looking up.

The 1st potato flowers are opening, as are the lupins. 

A few strawberries are developing - I think they may need netting to prevent the birds/mice getting them.

The salad leaves I planted a couple of weeks ago are also growing well and it looks like I might get some flowers on the courgettes in the next few days.

The mange tout are looking good too - might have to pick some for tea tonight!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


So this is summer eh? I took this photo during the deluge we had earlier in the week - the blue tray had been propped up under the table, but blew over and was almost filled within a couple of hours! I suppose we should look on the bright side - no watering, the water butt is full and all the veggies are growing.

26th May 2012

16th June 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday 4th June

Everything's growing so well at the moment! I've been able to pick plenty of spicy salad leaves and rocket, although both have bolted are now beginning to flower. As a result I've sown some more - I wasn't sure I'd bother with a second sowing, but they've been so good I want more! I've also planted some rainbow chard this week.

The sweetcorn's shot up this week with all the warm weather, and the beans I put in beside them have germinated - they are quickly catching up with the one's I planted earlier in the toilet roll tubes. It makes me wonder whether it was worth sowing them early - or is it more down to the sudden change in weather conditions?

The peas are flowering, and the first potatoes have just started showing flower buds. The tomatoes are also showing a few flowers. I planted out a few more red onions, beside Amy's purple and globe carrots to discourage the carrot fly. As for the courgettes? Only one of the earlier sowings have survived, but 2 more have germinated from those I sowed last week.

My mini greenhouse has been cleared out and I've taken out the 2nd shelf to make room for a big planter. I've put the more tender plants (aubergine, chillies and peppers) in here. As for where to keep the spare shelf? - propped up behind the planter to act as a support framework for the aubergines and peppers!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I'm not having much luck with my courgettes. The first lot completely failed to germinate (I suspect it was too cold). The second batch germinated brilliantly and were looking really healthy until I potted them on, when they just seemed to shrivel up. Left with just 2 plants, I have planted up a new container (on special offer at the local plant nursery - so how could I refuse?).

The up-turned bottles were Sara's Mum's idea, having seen it done where they live in Greece. Since she mentioned this a few weeks ago I've seen it repeated in many places as a drought busting idea to encourage strong, deep roots. I've also reused the cut-off bottoms to act as propagators for six more seeds - I'm determined to harvest a few courgettes!!


I've always managed to get plenty of blackberries from the local hedges, but I was given a thorn-less blackberry plant by a neighbour a few weeks ago (see here) which apparently gives much bigger and sweeter fruit. This prompted me to clear another overgrown corner of the back garden to make space for it. I forgot to take a "before" shot, but here's the "after", complete with free poppy that had self-seeded in the same pot!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I hadn't really intended to grow cabbages, as no-one in the family is that keen on them. However, I've started  buying Kitchen Garden magazine and it invariably comes with free seeds. Well, it would have been rude not to plant them  - wouldn't it?! So, the first seeds I planted this year were cabbages - DT Brown Golden Acre (primo II). I got a bit carried away, and although I didn't plant the whole packet, I have more seedlings than we are ever going to eat! The ones in the ground are growing away nicely, despite the birds best efforts, so the potted ones are going spare. I cannot bring myself to throw them away (it's hard enough thinning my crops) - so what to do with them? I gave a few to my friend Sara (Sew Appetising) at the weekend, but that still leaves quite a few. So, I decided to give some away...

Sara pointed me at a website to make paper pots ( so I sat down with an old newspaper and wine bottle and this is the result. I wasn't sure how well they'd stay together, but once I'd put a bit of soil in they were pretty sturdy. Definitely worth doing again.

A bit of re-potting later and I was ready to put out my stall!

I initially put 8 out, and so far 6 have gone :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Just planted out Amy's sweetcorn (Sally and friends), along with it's companion planting - her broad bean (sadly, only "Biggy" made it), the single runner bean that grew in a toilet roll tube, and a trio of French beans (nicknamed "The triplets"!) that we bought from the outdoor education table at school. I've also put in a few more runner beans at the base of the sweetcorn, in keeping with the "Three sisters" planting method.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Finally, the sun has returned and looks like it's here for the week! And, it's British Tomato Week, so when better to put in some tomatoes? This year I'm growing Alicante (a medium sized cordon type), Gardener's Delight (another cordon, cherry sized) and Sweet Million (again, a cordon and cherry sized).

Tomatoes are pretty much the only veg I've grown previously with any success. In the past they have been in a grow bag against the house, on the patio. But I've always struggled to keep them sufficiently watered. So, where to put them this year? After much debate, I've decided to stick with the grow bag, but have invested in a pack of 3 tomato grow-pots.
These are supposed to help by encouraging 2 types of root - the deeper, water-seeking roots go down into the bag, while the shallower feeding roots develop in the pot. I've sited the bag against the south facing fence so they should (British summer willing!) get plenty of sun.
Finally, a bit of companion planting - a pot marigold (Calendula). I've also planted some basil seeds today (free with Innocent Smoothies), which will be planted out in front of the tomatoes when they're big enough.
 In the meantime I've put out the pot of basil that has been sitting on the windowsill since I bought it (the best before date is 02 Nov 2011!!).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Busy weekend of (over-due!) sunshine

Wow! What a lovely week-end we've had! It's been such a long time since the sun shone for more than a few minutes...

I decided to take the fleece covers off the raised beds yesterday, hoping that the veg wouldn't get eaten. I was initially a bit dismayed to see a load of birds arrive. On closer inspection, they were house sparrows and goldfinches and seemed to be eating between the greenery, so I left them to it. When I went out later, I couldn't see any obvious damage, so I think they may have been eating the ants. House sparrows are supposed to be in decline (have a read here), but they seem to be thriving around here, and we even have a nest in the eaves!

Jobs I've done this weekend include:
  • thinned out the red onions
  • earthed up the potatoes again
  • weeded
  • potted on the sweetcorn and courgettes
  • planted out the brussel sprouts
  • lawn mowing
  • clearing a very overgrown flower bed
Well I did say it was a busy weekend!

Friday, May 11, 2012


Despite the distinct lack of sunshine recently, the potatoes are growing really well - they must like the rain!

This is what my Kestrel potatoes were looking like last weekend (5th May), before I did some "earthing up"...

And after the earthing up (on the 6th May)...

They have been growing well all week and are now even further above the soil than last week! 

And the ones growing in bags are doing pretty well too. In the bags, I've put a bottle with the bottom cut off so that I can water to the base more easily, although with all the rain we've had recently I haven't used the watering can in weeks!

5th May
6th May
11th May