Sunday, 29 November 2009

Introducing Sammy

You were introduced to my son's rabbit, Monty, in May in my post Coming..... Ready Or Not. This is Monty's brother, Sammy, my daughter's rabbit. When we went to buy the rabbits in February of 2008 Sammy was the smallest there, my how he's grown. He's now much bigger than Monty. They're Rex rabbits, quite a large breed, and they tend to have a fold of skin underneath their neck. Monty doesn't have such a pronounced fold under his chin, but Sammy does earning him the nickname Big Fat Sammy Double Chin. During the summer they have their hutches on the grass so that we can just open the hutch doors to enable them to come and go into their run as they please, but in winter their hutches are brought down onto the patio as the grass tends to get so waterlogged. We still give them access to their runs in dry weather, but in wet weather they are spoilt and brought into the house for some cuddles instead. With all the rain we have had lately we decided that now was the time for their hutches to be moved so they are now installed nearer the kitchen door than usual. This also means that they get spoken to everytime someone goes in or out of the house.

There hasn't been any gardening done lately, the rain has just been too bad. It's also got alot colder which means that the plants which were moved into the greenhouse will soon be getting covered in their winter blanket of fleece.

The potatoes which I'm growing in a container in the greenhouse, hopefully for Christmas dinner, seem to be doing ok still. I hope I'm not disappointed on Christmas day.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Putting My Feet Up

It seems that winter is certainly on it's way. We've had nothing but rain and strong winds for the last week, which means that digging over the allotment has been put on hold. Instead, I'm getting my gardening fix by putting up my feet and reading my magazines. I currently subscribe to Gardener's World magazine and Grow Your Own magazine, and I also have a stack of gardening books at hand ready for the long winter evenings when I'm confined to the house because of bad weather.

One thing I am short of is a good cook book. I have the usual celebrity chef books, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson etc. but I really want something aimed specifically at allotmenteers which also gives advice about storing and preserving so wondered if anyone has any recommendations.

Now that things in the garden have come to a bit of a standstill I won't be updating the blog as often as usual. There's so much to blog about in the summer months when everything is happily growing away, but much less in winter and I don't want each post to read that I haven't done anything due to the weather, I'm sure it would only get monotonous. From now on I'll only blog when I have something constructive to blog about. I hope that's ok.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Moth Orchid

I'm rather pleased with myself as I have managed to get my Orchid to flower again. I bought myself a Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid last year and it was in flower for a few months. At Christmas, my hubby's auntie and uncle bought me another Moth Orchid which again flowered until about May. I read up on the internet about getting them to bloom again and the general advice was to cut the flower spike down to just above a bud, which I did. I then waited for months but nothing happened. They looked rather comical actually, bare spikes with no sign that they would flower again. In the end I decided that I would cut the spikes right down to the leaves. Within a few weeks of doing this both the Orchids sent out a new spike, and both are now beginning to bloom. The next thing I'll be Googling is how to repot them. The one in the photo is the one which my hubby's auntie and uncle bought me, and it's roots are growing so far out of the pot that it will definitely need repotting.

I spent Thursday finally putting the garden to bed for the winter. All the more delicate plants in containers have been moved into the greenhouse. I don't heat my greenhouse at all, but as the weather becomes colder I will drape fleece over the pots, and I find that this keeps the frost off them.

I forgot to mention a couple of weeks ago that I did finally manage to get my winter hanging baskets planted up. I have got one at the back of the house with Pansies in it, and two at the front of the house containing Violas. On Thursday I planted the few left over plants into the border to add a little more colour over winter.

Last week I was kindly given the Best Blog Award from Tanya at Allotments4You. I am very proud to say that I have been given the award again this week from Kella at Kella's Musings on Growing Her Own, Wildlife and Her Brand of Parenting. Thank you very much Kella, I'm really honoured that you consider I deserve the award again. Of course, this now gives me the chance to nominate some more blogs for the award as it was very difficult last week to choose just 15, so first of all, here are the rules again:-

Post the award on your blog along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The 15 blogs I would like to pass this award on to are:-

I hope you will all accept this award as I think you have great blogs. I have also found it fun to follow the recipient's links to the blogs they have nominated as it's a great way to find new great blogs. Other people haven't nominated the full 15 blogs as I have, so I think anything up to 15 will be acceptable.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Another Failure

As you can see, my leeks haven't done too well. I can only assume that the failure's I've had this year have been down to the condition of the soil. I'm trying to rectify this ready for next year by adding lots of manure and compost to the beds. This year it has been a case of planting everything into the soil as it was and hoping for the best. Luckily not everything turned out as bad as my leeks.

We had some nice weather over the weekend which enabled us to spend some more time digging over the allotment. It's a long hard task so we're getting as much done as we can before the winter really sets in and whatever isn't done then will have to be done in spring. I wouldn't have got half as much done without my hubby and son's help. They worked like troopers. When I first took the allotment on my daughter was really keen to help, but sadly her enthusiasm has waned along the way. She's quite happy to do little jobs like planting seeds or picking strawberries, but isn't quite so keen on the more laborious tasks. My son on the other hand is always happy to help out, and really is a huge help when jobs need doing.

I also dug up some parsnips this week which we had for Sunday dinner. When I say we, I actually mean myself and my daughter, no one else will eat parsnips, but I have to grow plenty as my daughter would eat them by the plateful if I let her. They were delicious and definitely one of the successes.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A Little Bit Of Magic

This is Skimmia Japonica - Magic Marlot. It's an evergreen shrub and fairly new on the market. This is now in it's second phase. The first phase is white flower buds, in the second phase the flower buds change to a deep pink as you can see, and finally in the third phase the white flowers open and these are apparently scented. I only bought this plant in spring so I'm witnessing these phases for the first time. It hasn't put on alot of new growth this year but I don't know if this is because I have it planted in a container. I'm looking forward to seeing the flowers open and finding out what sort of scent it has.

After a bit of a dull start today has turned out rather nice. It poured with rain last night but today has been dry, sunny and really quite warm. I took advantage of this and spent the day doing jobs in the garden.

I've tidied up the flower border again. There were still a few flowers around when I last did this, but everything is now well and truly finished for the winter so I've cut alot of things back. Some foliage has been left behind for insects to take shelter in throughout the winter. I saw two ladybirds today, one native and one which I think may have been a Harlequin. Hopefully I can get the native species to hibernate in my garden so that they are still here when I need help with the nasties in spring. The small pond still needs sorting out but I didn't have any rubber gloves, so that job has been put on hold for another day. The plants in the pond have really thrived this year so they do need a little cutting back and their roots need trimming.

The spring bulbs which I bought for the garden have been planted today. I planted some Fritillaries around the small pond, and also some Narcissus - Minnow which produce up to five flowers on each stem and are a creamy yellow colour.

I am the proud recipient of this Best Blog Award. This was kindly bestowed upon me by Tanya at Allotments4You. Thank you very much, Tanya. I'm pleased that you enjoy my blog. That also goes to everyone else who regularly reads my blog and makes a comment, it's very much appreciated.

I now have to pass this award on to other blogs who I think deserves this award, but first of all the rules.

Post the award on your blog along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The 15 blogs I would like to pass this award on to are:-
I hope you will all accept the award as I think you have great blogs. Other people haven't nominated the full 15 blogs as I have, so I think anything up to 15 would be acceptable.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Hooligans At Halloween

I was going to show you a photo of my son's elongated pumpkin which he managed to carve into something resembling Shrek (complete with ears) but unfortunately I didn't take a photo on Halloween. I had left it in the conservatory and intended to take a photo today, but when I lifted it up it had started to decay, and collapsed. So instead, here is a photo of my daughter's tiny Hooligan pumpkins which she instisted be carved for Halloween. They're only about three to four inch in diameter so you can imagine it was a tricky job. I think they are rather cute.

All my good intentions of having the allotment dug over before winter are dropping by the wayside. Time is ticking on and I'm getting nowhere. Family life has taken over and there's always something more important to do. Digging over the allotment seems to be way down on my list of priorities. I've got the next few weekends off work so I'll have to make more of an effort to put in some hard work.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The 'C' Word

Dare I mention Christmas yet? These are the potatoes which I'm growing in containers, hoping to get some lovely new potatoes for Christmas dinner. I saved a few of my Kestrel tubers which I bought in the spring and kept them in the salad drawer in the fridge. They've now been planted up in a container, and as you can see, are growing well. They've been earthed up as they have grown and the compost has now reached the top of the container. Now that we keep getting risks of frost I have moved the container into the greenhouse as it's important they don't get frosted. I've never grown potatoes at this time of year before so the results will be interesting.

I hate to admit that I still haven't got my hanging baskets planted up. I did start to make an effort today, but the weather was awful, it has rained all day. I thought I would bring everything into the kitchen and do them in there, but the plants were rather soggy after being out in the rain, so I have moved them into the greenhouse to dry out a little. I'm hoping to have some spare time this week as the kids are on half term, so I'll do them then. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

On And On And On......

As you can see, my runner beans are still flowering, though now that the colder weather is upon us I doubt if these flowers will come to anything. They're a variety called Scarlet Emperor and have been very productive. I have picked more beans today, they just seem to go on and on and on, hence the title of this post. There are still more beans maturing on the plants, but as soon as we get a proper frost it will be the end of them. I pulled up the French beans at the weekend. I had my last harvest from them last week when flowers were still to be seen on the plants, but the cold weather finished them off.

The area of the allotment which has been used this year is in much better condition now than when we took it on. It's so much easier to dig than the area which has been left untouched. That area is back breaking to dig over. I'm trying to get out as many of the stubborn weeds as I can, and then hubby is going to dig over the area getting the rest of the weeds out as he goes. Well, that's my plan, he doesn't know it yet.

Lots of seed catalogues have been dropping through the letterbox, and I have been pondering over which potatoes to grow next year. I wasn't very successful this year as alot of the potatoes had slug damage. Charlotte seemed to do well, and they're known as having a good resistance to slugs, but I wasn't over keen on the taste so I'm looking for alternatives for next year. I'd like to have a go at International Kidney, but apart from that I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Smiling Faces

Pansies always remind me of smiling faces. I don't often have them in summer, preferring the smaller Viola, but usually have them through winter as they hold up to the weather so well. I was supposed to have my winter hanging baskets planted up by now, but they're still not done. I managed to buy the flowers for them yesterday, but have been so busy that I never got round to that job. As you can see, I did buy some Pansies, but also chose some Violas for the baskets. I had wanted some really pale yellow ones, but didn't manage to find any so I've decided that I will grow my own next year so that I can choose exactly what I want. The pansies will go in other containers.

Another job I was supposed to be doing was planting my spring bulbs. I have got some Fritillary's which I thought would look nice around the pond area. I've got a few of them there already but thought I would add to them. I've also got some Narcissus - Minnow which are a multi headed variety, and fragrant. I want to finish tidying up the border before I plant the bulbs, but I will leave some old foliage there for insects to take shelter in during winter, after all, it is supposed to be a wildlife border.

One job which I did manage to do in the garden was emptying out all the containers which held the summer bedding plants. The contents were taken to the allotment and put on the compost heap there, as the bin in the garden is full.

A few weeks ago we visited Wyevale garden centre. They were advertising a bulb growing competition for children. They could take three tulip bulbs of either Pinocchio or Red Riding Hood and they have to plant them and record the progress in scrapbook form. The scrapbook should be handed in next year after the tulips have bloomed, and there are gardening related prizes. My daughter thought she would give it a go, so took three bulbs. The problem is, we can't remember which variety she chose. Still, it will be fun finding out when they eventually bloom. So this is another job on the 'to do' list. Obviously, it is a job which my daughter will be doing without help from me, but I still need to sort her a container out and get her some compost to use. I don't know where time goes.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Making Notes

I have always made notes about my garden. I make notes about when I plant seeds, what I have planted, how long they take to germinate, when I pot them on, when I plant them out etc. As well as making notes I keep any articles which I find interesting, or ones which I think I may want to refer back to at a later date. These are tucked inside my note book. This year I bought myself a second book to keep my garden and allotment notes seperate. The notes I have made this year will help me to plan for next year. I noticed that my allotment neighbour had alot of his plants out on the allotment alot sooner than I did, and he had a great harvest. As I didn't get my allotment until March I obviously was a little late in sowing things which could have been sown earlier, but my notes will help me plan the earlier sowings next year.

We spent part of Saturday at the allotment. I pulled up the courgette plant which has now given up the ghost, and picked more French and runner beans. There are still flowers on both of the beans but now that the weather has cooled down I don't think they will last much longer.

I enlisted my hubby's help to dig, whilst I dug out some of the more thuggish weeds from the top part of the plot. This is the part which hasn't yet been touched, but I'm hoping to get the whole of the allotment dug over before winter sets in so that the whole of it can be used next year. There's still alot to do, and now that the darker nights are here we don't have as much time to spend there as we did in summer. I'm hoping that the weather holds out a little longer as it will be tough going once the frosts are here.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Last Of The Blooms

There isn't alot left flowering in my garden now. I seem to have a riot of colour in summer but as soon as the cooler weather arrives there isn't alot of interest. One of the plants which is still flowering is Cheiranthus Cheiri - Wild Wallflower. This was bought in April as a very young plant and it quickly established itself. It has flowered all through the summer and is still going strong. My Fuchsia's are also still flowering. I have quite a few Fuchsia's so these always give some late colour to the garden. I think I will have to look for some plants which flower a little later next year to add some blooms to the autumn garden.

I have cleared away my tomato plants. They hadn't quite finished fruiting but as the cooler weather has now arrived I need the greenhouse space to house my more tender plants. As my greenhouse is only 4x6 I can't afford the space for both. My tomatoes have performed really well this year and I'm really pleased with the amount I've harvested from four plants, certainly more than I would buy if I wasn't growing my own.

I had intended to get my winter hanging baskets planted up this week, however, I haven't had time to go and buy the plants so that hasn't happened. Last year they were just planted up with Pansies and I think I will do the same again this year. They go on blooming right through winter and they still look good in all weather, even snow.

I have started clearing away all the summer bedding plants, well, I say I have, what I really mean is that I enlisted hubby's help in doing this. Unfortunately, the compost bin in the garden is now full so that's something else which has been put on hold. The rest of the summer bedding will be pulled up during this week and taken to the compost bin at the allotment.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Halloween's Sorted

My son planted a pumpkin in the hope that he would have something good to carve for Halloween. The plant certainly grew well, sprawling out all over the place, but unfortunately it only produced one pumpkin and it grew in a sort of elongated shape rather than round, as you can see. If he does carve it for Halloween I think it will have to stand on it's side rather than it's end. We're going to have a go at growing a different variety next year. My daughter chose mini pumpkins - Hooligan. Her plant produced four tiny pumpkins which, according to the seed packet, can be microwaved. We haven't tried them yet but I will let you know what they're like once we do.

I had hoped to spend a good few hours at the allotment on Saturday, digging over the beds and generally tidying up, but the weather was against me. We had such high winds here, and also drizzle, so I decided on a day indoors instead. I was working on Sunday so I didn't manage to get down then either. There's so much to do before winter sets in, but now that the evenings are getting darker much quicker, I'm finding it harder to spend any time down there during the week.

We had a good downpour yesterday after weeks without any proper rain. It didn't seem to stop all day, so it will have given everything a much needed watering. Hopefully, it will have softened the soil ready to dig too, as it's been hard going trying to get the spade in.

I've been really pleased with my beans, both runners and French, as they've given us a huge crop. They're on their last legs now though, so they'll soon be coming out. I'll leave the roots where they are so that they can fix nitrogen in the soil.

The allotment bill dropped through my letterbox the other day. I'm charged £20.00 for the year which I don't think is bad at all. It's not a full sized plot, but I know of many other people who pay alot more for their allotment. We don't have water on site so we don't have to pay for that, but I think it's a bargain to be able to grow my own food.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


I've waited such a long time for my peppers to ripen, and at last they are doing so. I have some yellow ones, and lots of green ones which are still on the plant, but showing signs of turning yellow too. They should ripen before the really bad weather sets in.

Speaking of bad weather, yesterday was so blustery that lots of my containers in the garden were blown over, and the bird table was too. We had a little drizzle on Friday, but haven't had a downpour for weeks now. I'm still having to water the containers in the garden regularly.

Most of the bedding plants have now died back so this week I will be having another tidy up in the garden and emptying all the annual containers. My winter hanging baskets have usually been planted up at this time of year, but I haven't even bought the plants for them yet. I think this will be another job for the coming week.

I'm experimenting this year by trying to grow some new potatoes for Christmas dinner. I held back a few Kestrel tubers which I bought at the start of the season, and kept them in the salad drawer of the fridge. These are a first or second early potato, depending on which supplier you take notice of as they're described as both. I've planted them in a container and they're growing already. I'm watching for frosts as the container will have to be moved into the greenhouse at this point. I've never done this before so I'll let you know how I get on. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Disappointing Sweetcorn

After having great success with growing sweetcorn in containers for the past two years, I thought that having now got an allotment I would be in for a bumper crop. How wrong I was. The seed germinated really well and they were planted out after all risk of frost was gone, but just look at my total harvest. I could see from the moment they were planted out that they just didn't want to grow. Their final height was about two foot, and only a few of the plants produced any cobs. These didn't form correctly and this is what I ended up with. I think the failure is down to the condition of the soil. It hadn't been worked for a while, and I don't think it contains much goodness. I will remedy this ready for next year by adding lots of manure this autumn, as I'm determined that next year will be different.

Speaking of manure, last Saturday I sent my hubby off to the local stables. He spent several trips back and forth to the allotment with bags of the stuff in the boot of the car. All in all, he filled fifty bags, so there's a huge pile waiting at the allotment to be dug into the beds.

More clearing up at the allotment took place on Saturday. The rubbish sweetcorn plants were pulled up and part of the brassica bed was cleared. We have started digging the plot over ready to add the manure to the beds.

We're still harvesting courgettes and beans, and we also got the first harvest from the calabrese. The only plants left in now are Brussels sprouts, calabrese, French beans, runner beans, leeks, parsnips, and courgettes.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Autumn Blueberries

I had a great crop from my blueberry plants this year. I have two plants, one which was bought as a young plant two years ago, which didn't crop at all last year, and one which was bought as a slightly older plant at the back end of last year. This year they both cropped really well. Apparently, blueberries will crop if you only have one plant, but they will crop much better if you have two or more. They don't have to be the same variety. I love the colour of the blueberry plant's leaves in autumn. They turn a gorgeous reddish colour.

After the review of my allotment in my last post, I thought I would do a garden review in this post. Firstly, the small wildlife pond which I installed at the beginning of the year has been a huge success. The plants have thrived, although I was a little disappointed not have had any seed heads on the Typha Minima - Mini Bulrush. The pond went in a little too late for any frogspawn, but I've seen frogs hopping in and out so I'm hopeful for next year.

The plants in the wildlife border were all new plants this year, and they all seem to have done well, some too well so they will have to be moved. They have attracted lots of bees and hoverflies, but the butterflies still seem to be thin on the ground.

This year was the first that I have succeeded with aubergines. I gave the plants a help with pollination by tickling the insides of the flowers with a paintbrush. This seems to have worked and I got three aubergines off the plant. I'm not a huge fan of aubergines, so now that I have finally managed to grow them, I think I'll give them a miss next year.

I've been inundated with tomatoes this year. I have grown three cherry varieties and a salad variety. Next year I am going to have a go at some different heirloom varieties, but will probably still grow Gardener's Delight as they are so prolific and very tasty.

I had problems with my peppers early on in the season, when I kept finding holes bored into them. I moved the plant out of the greenhouse and this seemed to remedy the problem. They have taken all summer to ripen, and are only just doing so now. There are still some green peppers on the plant. Again, I'm not hugely fond of peppers so this will be another thing I won't bother with next year.

I grow my spring onions in a wooden trough, and they have done really well this year. I will probably grow them the same way next year, but will also sow some at the allotment to see how they do down there.

The courgette plant which I grew in a container succumbed to powdery mildew very early on in the season, so next year I will only plant courgettes at the allotment. The plant at the allotment is still producing now, without any sign of powdery mildew.

At the back end of last year I bought a Stella cherry tree which I planted in a half barrel. This year it produced the total amount of one cherry. I'm hoping that this was just because it is young, and next year will go on to produce many more.

All in all, I think the garden has worked hard for me this year. Next year, the greenhouse will be used for tomatoes and cucumbers only. Now that I have my allotment I'm going to cut down on the things I grow at home, so the things I'm not too bothered about are going to go in favour of those which I can't get enough of.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cut Flowers

I had a trip to Wyvale's again at the weekend, this time concentrating on seeds for the cut flower patch at the allotment. They still had their seed sale on, so I managed to get each packet for 50p each. So far I have chosen Sunflower - Harlequin F1 Hybrid, Cosmos - Purity, Cosmos - Picotee, Aster - Lazy Daisy Mix, Zinnia - Scabious Flowered Mixed, and Gypsophila Elegans - Covent Garden White. I also popped a packet of Sunflower - Giant Yellow in my basket, though obviously these aren't for cutting. I'm hoping to have vases full of fresh flowers next year.

I've been looking back at my successes and failures on the allotment this year. My biggest failure has to be the sweetcorn, which germinated so well, but let me down from the moment it was planted out. It's still in the ground but has only grown to about two foot. A few cobs have formed, but sadly I don't think they're edible. I put this down to the soil not being worked for so long, and no manure or compost was added. This is something I will be rectifying by adding lots of manure to the soil shortly.

Another failure were the brassicas. They were netted, which certainly worked by keeping the Cabbage White butterflies from laying their eggs on them, but the slugs got them instead. I did get a few cauliflowers, and the Brussels sprouts and calabrese look to be doing ok, fingers crossed, but the cabbages were a washout. I definitely won't grow cabbages next year and am still debating the other brassicas. I'll wait and see how the Brussels sprouts turn out.

I have discovered that I love roast beetroot, but didn't grow enough, so more seeds will be sown next year. Very few carrots germinated, and those which did didn't want to grow, again I'm putting this down to the state of the soil. I'll give them another go next year. The potatoes had alot of slug damage so next year I will try different varieties.

Well, reading so far it all sounds doom and gloom, but it isn't so. My strawberries were fantastic. I've taken some runners to add to the bed, so hopefully I should get an even bigger crop next year. I only had one courgette plant at the allotment this year, but it has produced plenty of tasty courgettes. I will have more than one plant next year.

I think my biggest success has been the beans. I've grown a dwarf French bean, a climbing French bean and runner beans. They have all done really well, and I'm still getting basket loads. The tastiest were the dwarf beans, but these had finished before the other two started cropping, so I'll sow more of those next year. I've also got some other beans to try next year, including some yellow and purple varieties.

The leeks are still in the ground but, as shown in an earlier post, are still spindly. I'll have to wait and see if they thicken up at all. I suppose they'll still be edible even if they don't. The parsnips are also still growing, but it's hard to know how they'll turn out without checking underground. Watch this space.

So all in all, I don't think I've had too bad a year to say I've only had the allotment since March, and the soil obviously isn't up to scratch. Now is the time to get some goodness back in the soil and start making my plans to improve next year.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Tom Woods

This is one of my favourite Fuchsia's at the moment. It's Tom Woods and I bought it last year at the Harrogate Flower Show. I love it's strong colours, purple corolla and white tinged with pink sepals. I have quite a few Fuchsia's in my garden, and can never resist buying another if I see one I like. I usually overwinter most of my Fuchsia's in my greenhouse as many are not hardy, but I usually also take cuttings just in case any don't quite make it through winter.

Good news on the pepper front this week. It seems that my patience is paying off for they are finally starting to turn orange. They still have a way to go, but it certainly seems as though I won't have to pick them whilst still green.

It has been a very good year for tomatoes. I'm still picking them daily and can't quite believe how many tomatoes I've got off four plants. I have chosen two of the four varieties I will be growing next year, Whippersnapper and Tangella. They are heirloom varieties and I've obtained the seeds from some very kind people on the Allotments 4 All forum. I still need to choose another two, so I'm reading up on different varieties at the moment.

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I rarely get any other birds than Sparrows, Starlings and Blackbirds in my garden. Last week, my son came down from his bedroom and told me that there were loads of birds in the garden fighting over the goodies on the feeding station. I looked out of the window, but couldn't understand what he was talking about as there wasn't a bird in sight. Imagine my surprise when I looked a little closer and saw a Kestrel sat on my fence. He had obviously scared all the other birds off. I live quite close to open countryside and we often see Kestrels around and about, but I've never seen one in the garden before. I'm going to have to keep a close eye on my kid's pet rabbit's when they're out for their daily run. Mind you, it would have a problem with my daughter's rabbit, Sammy, he's the size of a small dog and getting bigger by the day, fat thing!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


This is how my leeks look at the moment. I'm a little worried about them as they don't seem to be thickening up very well, nor are they the lovely green colour of my allotment neighbour's. I think the state of my soil has alot to answer for. Having only got the allotment in March of this year, I have been planting out and hoping for the best. Obviously this method is not going to provide the best crops. I'm in the process of sourcing some well rotted manure so that I can add it to the beds shortly and hopefully next year I will have alot more success.

The weather over the last week has been really good and I've managed to get to the allotment every day. On Saturday my daughter went to her friend's house, so it gave us the whole day to work on the plot. Preparation for next year has started in earnest, and we have also started to clear the part of the plot which so far hasn't been touched. The strawberry bed has now been fully weeded, and all the runners have been removed. Some of these have been potted up to increase the number of plants I have, so I should get a good crop again next year.

The seed catalogues have started dropping through the letterbox. I've started making a list of flowers I want to grow at the allotment for cutting. I have seen lots of pictures on other blogs of Zinnia, and this is one flower already on my list. I also want to grow some small sunflowers, as I think they look so lovely in a vase, as well as some large sunflowers as I like to dry the heads for the birds.

I'm still harvesting huge amounts of French and runner beans. The plants aren't showing any signs of slowing down so I think I'll have plenty more to come.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tomatoes And Spring Onions

The best harvest I've had from my garden this year have been the tomatoes and spring onions. I've grown four different kinds of tomatoes, Ferline, Gardener's Delight, Sungold and Sweet Million. The Ferline is a salad variety which is supposed to have some resistance to blight, but as I grow my tomatoes in my greenhouse I didn't choose it for this reason. The other three are cherry tomatoes. As you can see, some of the Ferline tomatoes are absolutely huge. It's the first time I've grown Sungold and Sweet Million, and I've found that the Sungold are rather squishy. I won't bother growing them again. The Sweet Million are, as the name implies, very sweet and I've had a huge harvest from one plant, and the Gardener's Delight, as always, has also been a heavy cropper. I enjoy trying different varieties and next year I am going to have a go at some heirloom varieties.

Deb at Carrots and Kids has kindly passed on to me the 'You are a great read!' award. Thank you Deb. It's always nice to know that someone enjoys reading my ramblings. As part of the award I am supposed to list 10 things about myself, but seeing as this is a gardening blog I thought that I would list 10 things I love about my garden instead. I hope that's ok Deb.

1. I suppose the first thing I should say is that I love being able to fulful my hobby of gardening in it. I can while away many happy hours whilst I am out there totally absorbed in whatever I am doing at the time and lose all track of time.

2. I love my greenhouse, which I bought three years ago. It's only 6x4 but it serves it's purpose. I grow my tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in there and it's also used for overwintering frost tender plants.

3. This year I created a wildlife border in the one flower bed I have, and I love it. I chose plants which will attract beneficial insects into the garden. Some of the plants have put on so much growth that I will have to move them to a more suitable place for their height and spread, and there are still a few gaps which will have to be plugged, but isn't that the fun of gardening? I have noticed lots more bees and hoverflies in the garden this year, but I'm still waiting to see any other butterfly than the Cabbage White.

4. I incorporated a small pond in the wildlife border, which I love. It went in a little late to get any frogspawn this year, but I have noticed frogs using it to take a dip so I'm hoping for some tadpoles next year.

5. I love the safety that my garden provides. Not so much now, but when the kids were little I could allow them to play out there safe in the knowledge that they could come to little harm. My kitchen door opens into the garden so I could be making dinner whilst they were happily playing out in the fresh air.

6. This may seem a strange one, but I love my fence. A few years ago we had our old fence replaced with one six foot high. As we live in a semi-detached house it affords us some privacy from our neighbours.

7. I have a bird feeding station in the garden, although I rarely get any birds other than the run of the mill Sparrows, Starlings and Blackbirds visiting, I love to watch them. It's like watching regular little families with all the usual nurturing and squabbling.

8. Although my daughter is now 11, she still has a playhouse in the garden. It's one of those large two storey wooden ones and has been well worth the hefty price tag. It's had lots of use over the years, and still does even though it's now a bit of a struggle for her to get up the stairs, she's growing like mad. I love it when she has her friends round and it starts to rain, I don't have to have multiple pairs of muddy feet trailing through my house.

9. As I only have one flower border, I love my plant containers. I've got the usual terracotta plantpots but also other more quirky containers too, such as a wheelbarrow, a watering can and a cup and saucer. If the plant combinations don't look very good together they're easy enough to move to another location.

10. Last but not least, I love being able to have somewhere out of doors to call my own. This is my own little piece of the earth, not very big, but it's mine.

I now have to pass this award onto other people whose blogs I enjoy reading. I'd like to give it to Kat at kats corner, Georgie at Little London Garden, and Kella at Kella's Musings on Growing Her Own, Wildlife and Her Brand of Parenting. If you'd rather not join in that's fine but I wanted you to know that you are a great read!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


These are the mini pumpkin - Hooligan which my eleven year old daughter is growing on her patch. There are half a dozen pumpkins on the plant and they only grow to about three inch in diameter. Apparently they can be microwaved by slicing off the top, scooping out the seeds, replacing the top, and then microwave for four minutes. Alternatively they can be baked or stuffed. Aren't they cute? I'm sure my daughter will want to carve a mini pumpkin for halloween.

Now that the kids are back at school I've found that I've got some spare time back during the day, and I've spent quite a bit of time at the allotment this week. My main task has been clearing the strawberry bed, which really should have been done earlier, but I've left it so late that the runners are trying to escape into next doors plot. I had pegged some of the runners down into pots filled with compost and these have taken well, but many of the runners have rooted themselves into the bed, so I have lifted these and they will be potted up too. I want to increase the number of plants I have as you can never have too many strawberries.

The huge courgette which I found on my return from holiday seems to have slowed down the production of more courgettes. The plant is still producing the odd one here and there, and still has some flowers on it, but I think it's really on it's last legs now. I had one courgette plant in the garden, which got powdery mildew and had to be disposed of a while ago, and one plant at the allotment. Next year I will plant more at the allotment, and maybe still have one in the garden.

The parsnips seem to be doing well, but one can never tell what's going on underground. I don't want to rush winter upon us all, but I'm really looking forward to lifting and tasting them.

The weather has been wonderful this week. The sun has been shining and the temperatures have risen. Perhaps we're still a while away from autumn afterall.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Birthday Presents

It was my birthday last week, and of course I got some gardening related presents. I'm now the proud owner of a new camera, which I chose myself, and after looking at many different models and reviews, decided to go with a Canon Powershot A1100 IS. This camera has a viewfinder as opposed to most other cameras, which only have an LCD screen. I also got Joy Larkcom's Grow Your Own Vegetables of which I have read many reviews. I haven't had chance to have a good read of it yet, but it looks quite comprehensive. Another book which was on my wish list was a butterfly and moth guide. I'm hopeless when it comes to identifying these, so the Collins guide will help. The digital minimum/maximum thermometer will be sited in my greenhouse. Next year it will take the guesswork out of when it is safe to move the seedlings out of the house. I also got a cutting and pruning knife. It has two blades, one curved and one straight, so it will come in handy for many tasks. As Brucie used to say, didn't I do well?

My peppers are still refusing to ripen. They are still green and don't look as if they're ever going to turn anything but. I'm still holding out picking them in the hope that I'll get some orange or red, but it's looking more and more unlikely.

On the other hand, my tomatoes are ripening so quickly that I don't know what to do with them all. I grow mainly cherry tomatoes, and one plant can produce hundreds, so I'm picking them daily.

I've still got lots of spring onions in the ground. They will see me through till the end of the season. I have these planted in a container at home rather than at the allotment, but next year I will have a go at growing them at the plot and see how they do there.

Autumn is certainly in the air. It has got much cooler of late and the nights are starting to draw in. Alot of the flowers in the garden are starting to die back. The bedding plants look to be on their last legs and will be composted shortly. Many other plants are looking rather bedraggled and need cutting back. The compost bin will be filling up, and everything will soon be tucked up for winter.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Spring Bulbs

I have started buying my spring bulbs ready for planting at the allotment. I'm hoping for a riot of colour which I will be able to cut and bring home to cheer up the house. I have opted for Daffodil - Las Vegas, which has white petals and a yellow trumpet and is highly scented, Daffodil - Early Flame, which has yellow petals and an orange trumpet, Tulip - Darwinhybrid Red, and Tulip - Triumph Shirley, which is a white tulip tinged with lilac. I will buy some more before planting time as I come across any which take my fancy.

My dwarf French beans are now finished and the climbing beans have taken over. I have grown two plants to each cane in a wigwam structure and I can see already that this is producing plenty of beans to keep us going. I don't know yet if I will grow runner beans next year, as I much prefer French beans. I am going to try some different varieties, but will definitely grow the dwarf French bean - Safari again as it's been delicious. It grows very straight and is very fine. I wish I had grown more of these this year.

I haven't done very well with carrots this year. At the start of the season I was wondering if they would fork as the soil is very stoney. At this point I would take any carrots, forked or not, offered to me, as the carrots I did sow have amounted to hardly anything at all. Very few of the seeds actually germinated so there are hardly any carrots actually growing. Those that did germinate look like they're ready for lifting so it now remains to be seen if they're edible.

The allotment has been very neglected recently. I thought I might get down there over the bank holiday last weekend, but days out with the family took precedence. The kids go back to school on Friday, which I'm not looking forward to, I like having them at home with me, so I'll get my spare time during the day back in which to tackle the allotment.

I just want to add my congratulations to Kella who has just been given an allotment, and to welcome her to the world of allotmenteering, although she isn't new to 'grow your own'. You can find a link to her wonderful blog in my blog list to the right.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

If You Go Down To The Woods Today.....

I'm not actually sure if this is a bear or not, perhaps a rabbit looking at the long ears, but this is what we came across during our day out to RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate today. What a great way to collect leaves to make leaf mould. I'm quite embarrassed to say that I've never been to RHS Harlow Carr before, as I live so close. I really enjoyed it though and will definitely return, I can highly recommend it.

There is a lovely woodland trail where we came upon a bird hide. We only saw sparrows, blue tits and a robin, but there is a book in the hide for visitors to record what they have seen and a few people had seen woodpeckers today.

If you have young children, there is plenty to keep them amused. Today there was a treasure trail for them to follow, and there is an adventure playground along the woodland trail. There's also a small area filled with sand and diggers.

With it being a little late in the year, I wondered if we would see the gardens at their best, but I wasn't disappointed. There was lots of colour still to be seen, and the borders weren't looking at all tired.

I certainly came away with greenhouse envy after seeing their fabulous glass house which is filled with alpines. I found myself working out how many different varieties of tomato I could grow in there.

My favourite part was the kitchen garden. They grow all manner of fruit and vegetables, and the plants look in tip top condition. There's no evidence of slug damage, I wonder what their secret is. Everything is labelled too, so if there is something which you don't recognise you only have to check the label.

Another favourite was the bookshop. I just love books, and the shop was so well stocked. I spent quite a while in there browsing, but I could easily have spent longer.

Back home, I am picking tomatoes in earnest. They have started to ripen quicker than I can pick them. I am growing more cherry tomatoes than salad type as they get eaten quicker. I'm always popping one or two in my mouth whenever I go in to the kitchen.

I'm also pulling spring onions from the garden. They've grown really well this year and I have lots of them. I love them added to cheese in a sandwich.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Fast Runners

The pace at which my runner beans are growing are competing with the weeds. I picked the first lot last week and I've been harvesting most days since. They seem to grow overnight. Either that, or my eyesight isn't what it was and I'm missing lots as I pick over them. I've grown them up a wigwam structure, two plants to each cane, and this has worked well.

I'm still picking dwarf French beans, but these are slowing down now, and the climbing beans are ready to take over. Again, these have been grown up a wigwam structure. Another few days and I should get my first harvest.

Our allotment association is hosting it's flower and vegetable show next weekend. I'm not entering anything, but I will go and have a look at everyone else's lovely produce. Maybe next year I will have the confidence to show some of my own.

I've been in work for the last three days, so had planned to go and put some hard work in on the allotment today. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and I was confined to home. Fingers crossed that we get some decent weather in the next couple of days otherwise I won't be able to see the ground for weeds, they're that bad.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Bargains Galore

Don't you just love a bargain? Last Sunday, I got a text from hubby's auntie telling me that Wyvale had their famous seed sale on. Around this time of year they reduce all their seeds to 50p per packet. This includes packets where more than one variety is included, such as a herb collection of five different herbs, and a sweet pea collection which includes five different varieties, so there are some real bargains. Of course, I couldn't miss out, so we jumped in the car, and an hour later my purse was down by £8.50. I had purchased 17 packets of seeds ready for next year. You would think that they would be selling off packets of seeds with a short 'use by' date, but this isn't so. Some of the seeds don't have to be used until 2012, so it really isn't false economy. One of the packets, a cucumber which is all female flowering, should have cost £4.45, so there are some real savings to be had. Then on Friday, I had to take the kids to the dentist. There is a Wilkinson's store near the dentist's, so I thought I would pop in. They too were having a sale, and I managed to pick up some Felco secateurs which should have been £39.99, for a tenner. They had been reduced by 50% and then 75%. I had a look around to see if there were any more, as they would have made a nice Christmas present for hubby's uncle, but they were the only pair. I think I have done rather well this week.

It was a lovely sunny day yesterday so it was spent in the garden. I have had a good tidying session, trimming back lots of plants which were threatening to take over, sorting out the greenhouse again, and generally cleaning up. Hubby cut the grass, which is no easy task since my daughter got a 10 foot trampoline for her birthday last month. The garden is now looking spick and span again.

Last year, I planted Nasturtiums in the garden. Never again! I should have really tidied them up sooner than I did, but it was left rather late and they set seed. This year I've got literally hundreds of them, not only in the flower bed, but self seeded all over the garden. They're even popping up in the raspberry containers, and in the cracks in between the paving. At first I thought I would leave some in the flower bed to add a bit of colour, but they've grown huge so they've had their chance, I pulled the lot up. A word of warning if you've got Nasturtiums in your garden, don't let them set seed.

The tomatoes are ripening slowly. I came home from my holidays last weekend to about a dozen ripe tomatoes on the plants, and I've had another handful this week, but although there's plenty of green tomatoes, they don't seem to be in a hurry to ripen. I've pinched out the growing tips this week, as apparently, if you do this, instead of the plant putting it's energy into growing, it will put it's energy into ripening the fruit. Let's see what happens.

It's the same story with the peppers. There's quite alot of fruit on the plant, but they're well and truly green without a hint of them changing colour. I'll give them some more time to change to orange or red, but if there's no sign in a couple of weeks I'll have to pull them green.

Now that the garden has once again been sorted out, I should have some time on my hands to concentrate on the allotment. I hope the weather holds out.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Ups And Downs At The Allotment

I'll start the post on a positive note, namely my cauliflowers. I had heard that cauliflowers can be tricky to grow. I experienced this when I lost every one of my seedlings, in fact I lost all my brassica seedlings. After doing a little research, I think I may have killed them with kindness, keeping them too warm after they had germinated. I therefore bought some plug plants and planted these at the allotment, and just look at what I came home from my holidays to find. There were actually three, but the third one had been got at by the slugs. You can see the slug damage to the outer leaves, but the heads are perfectly fine and untouched. The cabbages have so much damage to their outer leaves that they look like a very fine lace, but they are hearting up so I'll have to wait and see what the inner leaves are like. The Brussels sprouts look to be doing ok. They don't seem to have much slug damage at all, but there's no sign of any sprouts forming on the plants yet, so it remains to be seen if I actually get anything off them.

I'm having a total rethink about my allotment plans. When I took the allotment on in March of this year, I decided that I wanted to create seperate beds with a view to installing raised beds at a later date. We set about digging out each bed and left the gaps in between the beds as paths. In hindsight I think we should have dug over the whole allotment and then marked out the beds, as the grass and weeds which have been left behind in the paths are creeping back into the beds. Therefore, when I start digging over the plot in autumn I've decided to dig over the whole area and start again. I'm also rethinking the size of my beds. At the moment they are dug out into areas of about 10 foot x 4 foot, with a 2 foot path in between. There are two of these sized beds allocated to each crop i.e. potatoes, brassicas, legumes and roots. After working with these sized beds this year I find the space can be quite restricting in some areas. I'm now wondering if it would make life easier to have one bed allocated to each crop with a growing space of 10 foot x 10 foot for each. Decisions decisions. I'll let you know later in the year what I decide to do.

I mentioned in my last post that the courgette plant at home had succumbed to powdery mildew. Well, the courgette plant at the allotment is still looking healthy and greeted me with a huge courgette which had turned into marrow proportions. I've taken it from the plant but haven't used it yet as I don't know if I should treat it as a courgette as it's come from a courgette plant, or a marrow as it's grown to such a size. I'm hoping that the plant hasn't put all it's energy into growing this giant specimen at the expense of producing more courgettes. There were some more flowers on the plant, but only male ones. Another waiting game to see what happens.

I'm not very happy with my sweetcorn. I grew it in containers last year and the year before, and they were wonderful, but this year I have tried a different variety, Swift, and they're so small. I had great germination, and the plants now have their male flowers and some have got cobs developing, but they haven't put on much growth in height at all. If I get one cob from each plant I'll be very lucky.

One of my favourite vegetables is parsnip. I have read other blogs where people are pulling their parsnips up already, so I thought I would give it a go myself. I wasn't holding out much hope for my root crops this year as the ground hasn't been worked, and it seems very stoney. The one parsnip which I pulled up was still quite small, but it was perfectly formed. I shall leave the rest of them to grow bigger and just hope that as they do, they don't fork.

Good news on the potato front. In a previous post I mentioned that alot of the larger potatoes which I had dug up had lots of holes in them caused by keel slugs. I had left some plants in the ground and was hoping to dig them up before we went away. I never got round to doing this, so they were lifted this weekend. These plants had no damage at all, but were a different variety from the ones lifted earlier. The slugs seemed to like Kestrel, but left the Charlotte alone. Definitely something to remember for next year.

Broad beans are a plant which many people sow very early in the year, or they even start them off at the back end of the year hoping to get an even earlier crop the following spring. My broad beans were sown into toilet roll inners at the back end of May, and once germinated were planted at the allotment. I only planted four plants, just really to see if I would get a crop later in the year. The beans were ready at the weekend. I didn't get a huge amount off four plants, enough for one meal, but the plants didn't suffer from any blackfly which alot of broad bean plants do. I don't know if this was because they were planted later in the year, because I companion planted with French Marigolds, or just down to good luck.

My runner bean plants have started to produce very small beans, and there's lots of them. They just need to put on a little growth now and then I'll be looking for runner bean recipes.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Aubergine Harvest

I returned from my two week holiday yesterday to find my aubergine plant overflowing with fruit. My dad, who was looking after my greenhouse whilst I was away, had already picked up one aubergine which had dropped off the plant, but these three were waiting for me on my return. There are lots more flowers on the plant too, so I should get some more. I have tried to grow aubergines for the past two years and have failed miserably, not even getting the plants to flower, so I'm really pleased that I've been more successful this year.

We spent the first week of our holidays in Cornwall, and it was lovely. We had a couple of days where it rained, but we found things to do, and overall we had good weather. The second week was spent in Devon, but unfortunately my daughter got a stomach upset and just as she was getting better, my son caught it, so we were only out and about for the last two days of the week. We enjoyed our time away though, it's nice to have a break.

The tomatoes are now starting to ripen and I have picked about a dozen off the plants so far, but there are lots more which are no longer green but need a little more time to ripen fully.

The courgette plant which was showing signs of powdery mildew before we went away is now well and truly past it. I still have another plant at the allotment so I hope I get some more courgettes from that.

After moving the pepper plant outdoors from the greenhouse it has produced lots more peppers and there are some fully grown ones now on the plant. I'm going to leave them on there longer in the hope that they'll turn from green to orange or red. We just need the sun to shine a bit more for that to happen.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

I thought it was too good to be true when the Met Office issued their prediction of a long, hot summer. Apparently, they are now poised to revise this forcast. I had an idylic vision of spending day after day of the summer holidays down at the allotment, but so far, it's been a miracle if I've managed to get down there for half an hour without any rain. I made a quick dash to the allotment today, yes it was raining at the time, to harvest some courgettes and French beans for tea. The pumpkin on my son's patch has grown again since I was last there, and I didn't notice at the time, but if you look closely on the photo you will see a largeish piece of glass lying right next to it. I must remember to move this when I go down again, or else we'll have pierced pumpkin! This is the first year for years that we are not holidaying abroad. My hubby is a sun worshipper so we usually always head for the sun. This year I have persuaded him to stay in Britain, and on Friday we head off for Cornwall. After a week, we will be swapping this destination for North Devon for a second week. I'm really looking forward to it as I have never been to either county before, but if this weather continues, which looks likely, it doesn't look as though we'll be going back there in the near future. I can just imagine already what hubby will be saying - "We should have gone abroad"!

Last weekend we managed to get some serious weeding done, although it doesn't look like it in the photo. The brassica cage was opened up and that bed was cleared of weeds. It's definitely slugs which have been eating the brassicas. I found hundreds of those horrible tiny little slugs all over the leaves, and they have created quite an intricate lacy pattern on most of the leaves, great! The sweetcorn bed was also given a good weed. I underplanted the sweetcorn with squash as a variation on the three sisters system, thinking that the squash would suppress the weeds. It hasn't quite worked out though, as the squash don't really seem to have got going, and therefore, there were weeds a plenty.

I have harvested some of my potatoes, but all is not good. The smaller potatoes were fine, but any which had grown a little larger had small holes tunneled into them. A quick google has me thinking that Keeled Slugs may be to blame. I shall lift the rest of the potatoes before I go on holiday if I get the chance, to prevent any of the smaller tubers growing larger as it seems the bigger they get, the bigger the problem.

Work has started on the top end of the plot, which until last weekend hadn't been touched. The first job we have embarked on is clearing an area for the compost bins so that we have somewhere to put the spent plants once the harvest of each crop has finished. The ground just needs levelling off now before the compost bins get moved to their new home.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


I think that Rudbeckia is such a cheery looking flower and they seem to flower for ages and ages. The one shown here is Rudbeckia - Rustic Dwarf, and from one plant many flowers are produced. This is one of the few flowers that I have grown from seed this year. In previous years I have grown many of my bedding plants from seed, but I seem to lose quite a few to damping off disease. This year I decided that I would buy alot of my bedding plants as plug plants from my local nursery, and I haven't lost a single one. Cost wise, I would say that there hasn't been much difference when you take into account the outlay for the seeds, the compost used for raising the seeds and the compost used for potting on. It's also saved on space in the early part of the year, when I had vegetable seedlings taking up that all important window ledge space. I don't know where I would have put flower seedlings too. I will definitely do the same again next year.

I seem to have cured the problem with my pepper plant. In earlier posts I mentioned that my pepper plant was producing peppers, but the fruit had lots of tiny holes bored into them. I moved the pepper plant from the greenhouse to outdoors as I was running out of space in the greenhouse, and this seems to have cured the problem. I now have lots of peppers on the plant without any holes in them. We'll just have to wait and see now if they get to full size without any further problems.

I'm pleased to say that the aubergine plant is doing well. I now have three fruit on it, and lots more flowers. I'm continuing to pollinate the flowers with a paintbrush and this seems to be helping them to set fruit.

I'm continuing to harvest courgettes and I'm really pleased to say that this is something which all the family will eat, so I don't mind gluts. Unfortunately, the plant looks as though it is starting with powdery mildew, so I have removed the affected leaves and following advice on Kella's blog, which you will find in my blog list, I am spraying with a milk solution. I had never heard that milk may be a cure for powdery mildew before, but a google search brings up lots of discussion on this topic.

I acquired some cucumber seeds through a seed swap which were just named as Lemon Cucumber, so I assumed that they would be Crystal Lemon. Having never grown this variety before I didn't really know what to expect, but had heard that the fruit were smaller and more rounded. The plant has grown really well, and I now have lots of fruit on it, but they're really not what I expected. They are a quite insipid colour and have lots of little spiky hairs all over them. I've had a taste of one, and can't say that I'm overly impressed, so I think I will stick to the traditional varieties in future. I think that seed swaps are great fun though, you get to try lots of different things which you wouldn't ordinarily buy yourself.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Borage Ice Cubes

This is the first year that I have grown Borage. They have been grown from seed and planted at the allotment where they are doing their job of attracting pollinating bees very well. Each time I go to the allotment there are so many bees buzzing around the flowers. Although I haven't tried eating the flowers myself, they are actually edible and supposedly have a mild cucumber taste. They can be added to salads, dips or soups, or frozen into individual ice cubes and added to drinks, as I have done here. The flowers are so pretty and I will definitely be growing them again next year, although I probably won't have to sow them myself as apparently, they readily self seed.

The strawberries are now starting to slow down, but I'm really pleased with how they have performed this year. I have potted up some runners so we should have more plants next year. There have only been a few fruits which have had slug damage, and there has been no bird damage at all as the bed was netted.

The lilies have now started to open, but I haven't cut any for the house yet as I didn't have my secateurs with me. I'm hoping they're still as nice when I get to the allotment for my next visit.

The brassicas are growing very well, although I have noticed a few holes in the leaves. This must be slug damage as they are well protected with fine netting to prevent any butterflies from getting anywhere near them. The brassica bed is very weedy, so I must take off the netting on my next trip and tidy the bed up. This will also give me the chance to check over the leaves.

The pumpkin in my son's bed is growing extremely well and has some small fruit on it. It's making a dash for freedom though, scrambling out of the bed, across the path, and into the next bed. Luckily, nothing has been planted in this bed yet, so we'll leave it free to roam. I've never grown pumpkins before, so I'm hoping that as the fruit is only just forming, they will have enough time to ripen.

My daughter has harvested her first beetroot, and they look great. They've grown much better than my own! I've never eaten fresh beetroot before, only pickled, so I'm going to have a go at roasting some. I hope we all like it!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Blueberry Muffins

I have picked lots of blueberries from my two blueberry bushes and there are lots of fruit left on the plants which are still to ripen. Some of the blueberries have been made into blueberry muffins and they are deliciously tangy against the sweetness of the muffin.

I'm happy to report that the paintbrush method of pollinating the aubergine flowers, which I blogged about in an earlier post, is working. There are now two tiny fruits on the plant, and it looks like there may be more to come. It's now a waiting game to see if the fruits grow well. We certainly need alot of patience as gardeners.

I have harvested the first two courgettes and there are more just starting to grow on the plant, as well as more flowers waiting to open. This plant has been moved out of the greenhouse as it outgrew it's space and is doing just as well outside. It looks like I may soon be picking these daily, so I'd love to hear any suggestions of different recipes in which courgettes can be used.

The pepper plant has also been moved out of the greenhouse and it looks like there are some peppers now growing without holes in them. Again, it's a waiting game to see if some holes develop, but so far so good.

I haven't done much in the garden, or at the allotment, during the last week as it's been so hectic with my daughter leaving junior school and all the activities associated with this, and also having her birthday. I'm hoping that now we have started the school holidays I will have lots more time to spend in the garden. Cue the rain clouds!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Beans Beans....

....are good for your heart, the more you eat, the more them! It was a quick trip to the allotment today in between the downpours. I'm pleased to see that not only are my runner beans flowering, as per the photo, but the dwarf French beans are starting to produce some small pods. The runner beans are Scarlet Emperor and they have lovely scarlet flowers to match their name.

Last weekend, I did some serious weeding around the parsnips and they seem to have doubled in size since. I've decided that it's a losing battle with the weeds though, so I think it's a case of having a weeding session each time I visit in a bid to stay on top of them.

One of the lilies has finally burst into bloom and the others look like they won't be long until they follow suit. I'm pleased to say that we weren't the only ones visiting the allotment today, there were so many bees there too. A buff-tailed bumble bee was feeding on the open lily and looked to be drunk on the nectar. I'm also really pleased that we planted borage as the plants looked to be buzzing. On further inspection we could see bees on nearly every open flower. Borage certainly is a bee magnet. Let's hope that all these bees are doing their job of pollinating my veggies.

The strawberry runners look to have put down roots in the pots already. I'll leave them a little while longer before severing them from the parent plants though. Hopefully I'll be bulking up my stock of strawberry plants ready for next year.

The kids patches are doing really well. My daughter's tomato plant, which she was given at Gardener's World Live, is in flower, and her beetroot is almost ready to be lifted, and my son's radish, which he sowed last weekend, has germinated. His pumpkin plant has put on lots of new growth and some flowers, with fruit behind, are getting ready to open.

I still haven't done anything with the top end of the plot, but this is the area where my compost bins are going to be placed. I'm going to have to pull my finger out and get this part of the allotment organised so that I have my compost bins sorted out ready for all the waste parts of my plants when they have been harvested.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Water Lily

When I went to the Gardener's World Live show in June, I bought a water lily - Nymphaea Pygmaea Helvola. This is a very small water lily and ideal for small ponds. The plant already had a bud when it was purchased and it has gone on to flower and produce another bud which is waiting to open. As you can see, the flowers are nowhere near as showy as the larger specimens, but it's a good compromise for a small pond.

I have had another shuffle around in the greenhouse as everything is growing so large, there just isn't enough room in there to house everything. The courgette has been moved outdoors and is now producing some fruit. There are two courgettes on the plant at the moment and lots more flowers waiting to open.

As the peppers are still getting holes in the fruit, I decided I would also move this outdoors. I don't think I am going to get any edible fruit off this, but you never know, moving it outdoors might just help.

The tomato plants are still in the greenhouse and now have small fruits on them. They are getting a weekly feed with high potash liquid organic tomato food, as are the cucumber plants, which so far have produced one cucumber.

The aubergine plant now has four new flowers on it, so following advice, I am trying to help nature along by transferring pollen with the aid of a small paintbrush. I am still hopeful of getting some fruit off this plant this year.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Stella cherry tree which I purchased last year and planted in a half barrel has produced the huge harvest of one cherry. This has been picked and eaten, and it was delicious. I'm hoping that the tree will have settled sufficiently to provide me with a little larger harvest next year, however, for now at least, I'm buying my cherries in!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

As Requested.... Elizabeth, here is a photo of my daughter's patch. As you can see, she goes for prettiness rather than practicality. All her plants are dotted around rather than in rows. Growing on her patch she has borage, French marigolds, mini sweetcorn, beetroot, strawberries, a Gardener's Delight tomato plant which she was given at Gardener's World Live, and a pumpkin which I fear will take over her whole patch once it gets going, but who am I to stop her planting whatever she feels like? The photo was taken a couple of weeks ago so most things are further along now, and the borage is just about to flower. She wants to pick the flowers, which are edible, to freeze in ice-cubes to make her drinks pretty. I think it's really important to encourage children to have an interest in where their food comes from. It does also help them with their studies. My son had a biology exam recently in which he was asked how nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium help a plant to grow. He was able to answer this based on some of the knowledge he has gained through feeding plants.

I have planted three different types of beans at the allotment and they're all doing well. The first to be planted was dwarf French bean - Safari and these are now just starting to flower. The runner beans - Scarlet Emperor were the next to be planted and they are now reaching for the top of the wigwams. The last beans to be planted out were climbing French beans - Blue Lake, and they're putting on lots of new growth.

The first of the peas at the allotment have now been picked and they are deliciously sweet. There are lots of new pods still fattening up so there will be lots more peas to come.

The strawberries are still producing lots of fruit. I'm really pleased with how they've performed. The plants have put out lots of runners so I've dug plantpots filled with compost into the soil and pegged some of the runners down so that I can hopefully bulk up my plants for next year and get even more fruit than I have this year.

I have harvested some of my potatoes. I have planted second earlies so I really should have left them a little longer, however, I really wanted to get my leeks in the bed which have been used by the potatoes. Although there were plenty of potatoes there, they were a little small, which is understandable in the short time they've had to grow, but they're delicious all the same. Some have been eaten already, cooked with mint and covered in butter, and there are still more left. I'm really pleased because the rest of the family aren't really huge fans of new potatoes, but my daughter has taken a liking to them and can't get enough of them. I've still got one and a quarter beds left with potatoes still in, so they will be left to reach full maturity. After removing the potato plants the soil in which they have been has been transformed. I now know why people recommend planting potatoes in soil which hasn't been worked. The texture of the soil is now a lovely crumbly consistency. The leeks have now been planted in the place of the potatoes, and they look really good strong plants. It's been worth holding on a while before planting out.

As ever, the weeds are growing thick and fast, but I did manage to concentrate on getting lots of them cleared over the weekend, giving the plants more room to grow.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Keeping Cool

What do you do in the middle of a heatwave if you're a cat and you can't get cool? You go into next door's garden and sit on their bird table! This is next door's cat trying to stay out of the sun under the roof of my bird table. It's a good job that I've also got a bird feeding station or else the birds wouldn't get a look in.

The wildlife border which I created earlier this year is working well. I've now seen two different frogs in the small pond, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for frogspawn next year. There are lots of flowers on the plants which I chose for the border and these are attracting lots of bees and hoverflies, although I haven't seen many butterflies at all this year.

The courgette plant is now producing flowers, so there should be fruit to follow, and I have harvested my first cucumber. Unfortunately, the flower on the aubergine plant has dropped off without any sign of fruit forming. There are more flowers waiting to open so I am ever hopeful.

I have eaten the first of my peas, which are planted in a container in the garden, and a little further on than the peas at the allotment. Of course I had to eat a few straight from the pod, and they were delicious. The rest made a good size portion to have with last Sunday's dinner.

My pepper is still producing fruit, however, I still haven't got to eat any. There are still holes bored into the fruit and I'm unsure what's causing them. I have cut up the peppers to have a look inside, but that hasn't given me any clues. I'm starting to resign myself to the fact that I won't be eating peppers this year.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Lily Beetle

I have lilies in pots at home and they have never suffered with the dreaded Lily Beetle, however, when I went to the allotment yesterday there were three of these pests feasting on the lilies which I have planted there. They feed on the leaves, stems and flowers of lilies and you can see where parts of the leaves have been eaten. This causes the plant to stop producing food and weakens it preventing it from flowering next year, and in some cases, killing it. I'm not very good at killing insects, even bad ones, so I got my hubby to squish them. I'm going to have to be extra vigilant and check over the plants each time I make a trip to the allotment.

The sweetcorn which were planted out a few weeks ago are putting on new growth now after sulking for a little while when they were first planted out. The sweetcorn which I have grown previously in containers always did really well for me so I'm hoping that they do just as well at the allotment.

It is nearly 12 weeks since my potatoes were planted and they are now starting to flower so I shall be unearthing some of them within the next week or two. Again, they have done really well for me in containers previously, so it will be interesting to see what difference planting them in the ground makes.

I can't believe how much growth the brassicas have put on. They have literally romped away since they were planted out. Unfortunately, I lost a few of them to slug damage, but I replaced these plants and they are now doing fine. They are planted in the brassica cage which I posted about earlier, to prevent the Cabbage White butterfly from laying their eggs on them, as their caterpillars can do more damage than slugs.

We had a huge downpour during the night but today is warm and bright again. This weather is just what plants need to make them have growth spurts, but unfortunately, the same goes for weeds. I think I'm going to have to set a day aside to do some serious weeding of the beds at the allotment as weeds are popping up everywhere.

With everything growing so well at the allotment, my attention is now turning to follow on crops. On Sunday I picked some peas which I have growing in containers in the garden. After eating some straight from the pods (how could I resist?), there were just enough left for one meal, with more pods forming on the plants for later. The peas at the allotment have pods which are just starting to fill, and I have some more plants at home which are ready to be planted. Yesterday I sowed some chard and some curly kale so once they have sprouted I will have to find room for them at the allotment.
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