Friday, 31 December 2010

Reading Matter

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. My mum and dad came round for dinner on Christmas day, but apart from that it's been very quiet here. Amongst many wonderful presents were these books, some of them are reference books and a couple of them are people's personal experiences of allotment life. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to them once everything is back to normal.

Earlier in the year, I won a £10 gift voucher to be spent at Thompson and Morgan which had to be spent by the end of the year. With time running out, I scoured the website yesterday and decided up on some everbearing strawberries, Flamenco. They were offering free delivery yesterday so I only had to pay £3.99 myself. These will hopefully extend the strawberry season next year. I just have to get a bed ready for them now.

We're having a quiet evening in tonight, through I'm sure we'll still be up when the new year dawns. I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope 2011 brings peace, happiness and health, and of course a good growing season.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Arthur Bell

I have been looking for a yellow rose which can be grown in a container for some time now. On Saturday, we went to Homebase and found they were reducing many plants, as well as lots of other items. I was lucky enough to pick up this rose, Arthur Bell, which had started off at £9.99, then was reduced to £3.33 and was just being marked down to 50p as I passed by. The label states that it's a bush rose and can be grown in a container. It's a repeat flowering rose and is strongly scented. I thought the sales were supposed to start after Christmas but I don't seem to have done too badly here, a 95% reduction.

I'd just like to thank everyone who pops by my blog. I'm so lucky that I have many regular readers who comment often and who I class as friends, but there are many more readers who never leave a comment. Every visit and comment is very much appreciated. I'd like to wish all of you a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011, and here's to a successful growing season too.

Monday, 13 December 2010

No Spuds For Christmas

I eventually managed to get back in to my greenhouse after the door had been frozen shut, but I wish I hadn't bothered after seeing the scene which greeted me. Let's just say that there won't be any home grown potatoes on our plates on Christmas day. The even more annoying thing is that I had bought these potatoes especially for later planting, they were delivered around July time. Last year I saved some seed potatoes from the ones planted in spring. I kept them in the salad drawer in the fridge until it was time to plant them later in the year and they grew fine, producing enough potatoes for our Christmas dinner. I now know that the risk doesn't justify the cost of buying extra especially for later planting, I'll either do as I did last year and save some from the spring batch, or else plant some of the potatoes which the spring sowing produces. I won't give up though, I'll definitely try again.

We managed a trip to the allotment yesterday, though there wasn't much we could do. The snow has melted and I expected the ground to be very boggy, but I'm pleased to report that the drainage pipe which hubby installed earlier in the year seems to be working as there wasn't as much water about as I expected. The chard has definitely been taken by the frost, it's completely blackened, but the curly kale and cavolo de nero is still looking good. There's also some purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens which seem to be doing ok.

Today, the mercury has risen to a whopping three degrees, but by the end of the week we're expecting more snow. Let's hope we don't get as much as we've just got rid of.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Icy Pond

Yet another post about the weather, which seems to be dominating this blog at the moment. My little pond is completely frozen. The ice is so thick that I'm unable to break it, even though the sun has appeared this afternoon, it's rays aren't strong enough to even melt the snow. This morning, I tried to check on the plants which I'm overwintering in my greenhouse but I couldn't get in as the door had frozen shut. I don't heat my greenhouse, but protect the plants inside with fleece. Somehow, I don't think that it will be enough this year, I don't hold out much hope for my Christmas potatoes.

It's a few weeks now since I've been to the allotment. There isn't a lot growing there at the moment so I'm not particularly worried, but I'll probably take a trip down with hubby at the weekend just to check on things.

On a brighter note, my Orchid is now back in bloom again. I've been really successful with this Orchid so far, chopping off the flower spike at ground level when the blooms fade, which prompts it to grow a new spike and flower again. It's been in bloom for the last two Christmas's and it looks like it will still be in bloom for Christmas this year.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Hanging Around

The snow is still hanging around, though we only had a small flurry yesterday and it hasn't snowed since. The temperature is set to plummet even further so it's highly unlikely that it will melt any time soon. The kids were sent home from school at 1.30 on Monday and they haven't been back since, much to their delight. Instead there's been sledging, snowballing and a few wintery dog walks, though we haven't ventured too far as Archie cries when his paws get cold. We've been advised to check the school website over the weekend to see if it will be open on Monday or not.

I've been really thankful that I bought some walking boots earlier in the year. I thought they would be good for dog walking, but also for wearing on the allotment. I have to say, they're fantastic for the snow. I always find that Wellington Boots make my feet cold, even when they've got those sock liners in them. My walking boots keep my feet toasty warm, the only problem is that the snow is so deep that it comes above the walking boots. I just make sure that I wear long socks and tuck my jeans in to them.

I mentioned in my last post that hubby had spotted a greenfinch in the garden over the weekend. Feeding the birds regularly seems to be paying off as I spotted a wren on Wednesday, something else which I've never seen in the garden before. I also saw a robin feeding from one of the seed holders yesterday. Robins are usually ground feeders so it's unusual to see them feeding this way. I suppose it's a case of needs must in this weather.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The White Stuff

The weather forcasters were right for once when they predicted snow. There's more forcast for overnight and it seems there's no let up for the rest of the week. I can't remember when it last snowed this early in the season, though some news reports suggest it's been 17 years, I just hope it doesn't mean that we're going to get a long winter, last year was bad enough. Don't forget to pop over to my Through The Keyhole blog to find out what Archie's first impressions of snow are.

Obviously, nothing got done on the allotment again this weekend. I'll be interested to see what difference the drainage pipe which hubby laid earlier in the year makes after the snow melts.

The birds are loving the food which has been put out for them. It makes such a difference to them in snowy weather to be able to find food easily. Hubby spotted a Greenfinch over the weekend, something we haven't seen in the garden before. Let's hope he returns with his family.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Little Surprise

I was quite surprised today to find the alpine strawberries are still producing fruit. We've had a few frosts now so I thought they would be finished. Alpine strawberries have a very intense flavour and they produce for a long period too so they're well worth growing.

I've got quite a lot on at the moment so I haven't made it to the allotment this week. Hubby has taken a days leave from work on Friday, but as snow is forcast in some parts of the country for the end of the week, I don't hold out much hope of getting there this weekend either. We've dug over more of the allotment already this year than we dug last autumn so I'm quite happy with that even if we don't get any more done.

I always enjoy reading about people's experiences of allotment life, I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy reading blogs so much. On my Christmas list this year are a number of books on this theme, One Man and his Dig-Adventures of an Allotment Novice by Valentine Low, Digger's Diary-Tales From the Allotment by Victor Osborne and Allotted Time-Two Blokes, One Shed, No Idea by Robin Shelton. I hope Santa's taken note.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Feed The Birds

I try to feed the birds all the year round, however, during the summer months I'm not so bothered if I forget to fill up the feeders as there's more food around for them to find themselves. Now that the colder weather is here I try to make sure that there's always something on the bird feeder for them. These suet blocks are great for the winter months as it helps to build up their fat reserves which they need in cold weather. The suet is mixed with insects, berries, mealworms etc. You can also make your own fatty treats easily and there's many recipes on the web. One thing to remember though, you should never feed fat to the birds which has been cooked as it blends with the meat juices and it's prone to smearing which is bad for the birds' feathers. Of course, clean fresh water is also important, and as the freezing temperatures arrive don't forget to check the water supply first thing in the morning as it will probably have frozen over. There's some great tips about what to and what not to feed birds on the R.S.P.B. website.

We visited a couple of garden centres at the weekend. From their insides you wouldn't think that they had anything to do with gardening. They were completely adorned with Christmas decorations and any gardening related products were few and far between. This is one of the reasons I much prefer nurseries to garden centres. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy looking round the garden centres at all the Christmas ware, just not when I'm looking for something for the garden.

I gave the allotment a miss at the weekend. The weather had been so bad last week that I'm sure it will have been too boggy to get anything done. The colder weather has definitely arrived and with it has been rain and strong winds. I think we'll have to snatch allotment days when we can from now on.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Gardeners' World Magazine

I let my subscription to Gardeners' World magazine lapse in the summer as I found I didn't have time to read it properly. I've decided that now the winter months are approaching I will renew the subscription as I'll be glad of some reading material whilst I'm sat by the fire on the cold evenings ahead. I know that they recycle some articles, what needs to be done this December will need to be done again next December, and there are lots of pages of advertisements, but there's always something of interest to read in each magazine. I always take out the subscription through Tesco Clubcard Deals as the vouchers are worth four times their value, so a years subscription only costs £10.50 in vouchers. You've got to be quick to get it at this price though as the value of Tesco Reward vouchers is lowering to three times their value from the 6th December so the subscription will then cost £14.50 in vouchers.

I managed to get to the allotment again on Sunday whilst my daughter was at her drama group. My son didn't want to come with us this week so it was just hubby and I. I set about the strawberry bed, which is now almost finished, whilst hubby cleared a bed which was covered in weeds and dug over another bed. I'm really pleased with how much we've got done already this year. Of course, if I hadn't been so lazy and cleared the strawberry bed after they'd finished fruiting we'd have had much more done by now, but I didn't. It's been a real job tidying up the bed, I won't let it get in this state again.

It was a terrible day here on Monday, I don't think it stopped raining, even for a minute, all day. There was nothing for it but to make a roast chicken dinner which we ate with the first lot of runner beans taken from the freezer. How lovely it is to have some stored for winter use. The weather was much the same yesterday, though it did brighten up a bit in the afternoon, but it's been a gorgeous sunny, crisp autumn day today. It's forcast heavy showers again tomorrow so let's hope the rain is out of the way for the weekend.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Making Use Of The Runners

At last, I managed to get to the allotment at the weekend. The strawberry plants haven't had any attention since they fruited, even the netting was still in place, so I thought I should tackle that bed whilst hubby and son got on with digging over the plot. I didn't have as much time as I'd have liked there due to having to pick up my daughter from her drama group, but I managed to get about half the bed cleared, which was very time consuming due to the mess it was in. There were lots of runners, some of which had escaped in to the next bed, and new plants had set roots so I gently lifted them and potted them up. They will stay in their pots inside the cold greenhouse until spring when I will create another strawberry bed for them to reside in. This is a great way of increasing your strawberry plant stock for free.

Hubby and son got lots of digging done and the plot is looking much tidier than it was, though there's still lots more to do. The winter dig is already further on than it was at this time last year.

There's very little still in the ground at the allotment now. We're still harvesting cavolo de nero, curly kale and chard, and there's Savoy cabbages and spring greens growing.

My daughter is at her drama group again this Sunday which should free up some more time for me to spend at the allotment again. Fingers crossed for a fine weekend weather wise.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Say It With Flowers

Hubby's uncle called round this morning with a lovely bunch of Chrysanthemums for me. He always keeps my vases full at this time of year as he grows so many that there are always some which are surplus to requirements. Sometimes I get mixed colours and other times, like today, he brings all yellows, which are my favourites and look stunning en masse.

I didn't manage to get down to the allotment last weekend as other things cropped up, but hubby went and dug up the last of the potatoes as well as clearing some of the beds. My next job is to get the strawberry bed sorted out, the runners are escaping all over so they need to be contained and the whole bed needs weeding. The bean wigwams need to be dismantled and the plot needs digging over.

The weather has warmed up again over the last few days, though we did have our first frost last Sunday night. I haven't seen the forcast for the weekend but I hope it's dry so that I can get some jobs completed.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Too Chilly For The Chilies

I think it's only a matter of time now till we get a frost so I have taken all the chilies off the plant. As you can see, they're in different stages of ripeness but they can still be used green. These are Serrano chilies and my daughter bought me the seeds for Christmas last year so I felt compelled to grow them even though we don't eat chilies. These will be given away to someone who can make use of them. I only grew one plant which I think has done very well.

I only realised last weekend that there are still some potatoes in the ground at the allotment, I had forgotten all about them. I will make sure that they get dug up this weekend. The potatoes I am growing in containers in the hope of new potatoes at Christmas are doing really well. They've now been earthed up to the top of the container and they're residing in the greenhouse. I will make sure that they also get a covering of fleece before we get a frost just to give them a little extra protection.

As well as digging up the remaining potatoes, I'm hoping to get some more clearing and digging done at the allotment this weekend. It's certainly worth digging the allotment over in autumn if at all possible as the frosts break down the clods of earth and it really is much easier to work the following year. So fingers crossed for some fine weather this weekend.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Neighbours...Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Our next door neighbour has quite a few apple trees in her garden and yesterday she gave us a dozen baking apples. I don't know what kind they are. My daughter made a delicious apple pie with some of them and I ate more than my fair share of it. I'm going to make some more pies to pop in the freezer.

Hubby gave the greenhouse it's final tidy out over the weekend. The remaining tomatoes have all been brought inside to finish ripening on a windowsill and the plants have been disposed of. I never add tomato plants to the compost just in case there's any blight around, perhaps I'm just being over cautious. The potatoes which have been planted up in containers for Christmas have now been moved in to the greenhouse to protect them from any frost we might get, though we haven't had any yet.

I had a trip to the allotment yesterday and harvested yet more French beans. I was still picking them late last year too. Even the courgettes are still producing, I brought four home with me and there's more growing and yet more flowers still to open. I don't think it will be long before we get a frost though and that will finish them off. I cleared the flower bed, bringing home the sunflower heads to dry in the greenhouse. They will then be put out for the birds.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Still More To Come

I've just picked another few tomatoes from my plants, but there's still more to come if I can get them to ripen. My greenhouse is only four foot by six foot, not big by any stretch of the imagination, but it holds enough tomato plants to keep me supplied throughout summer. I'm reluctant to plant tomatoes at the allotment because of the risk of blight, I hear so many stories of people losing their whole crop to blight that it's much safer to keep tomatoes to the greenhouse. On the whole, I've been very pleased with my tomatoes this year, and will definitely be growing some of the same varieties again next year. In the past, I've always tried some new varieties each year, but I've been so happy with the varieties I've grown this year that I don't know if I'll bother next year.

Earlier on in the year, my daughter won a competition run by Wyevales and one of her prizes was a grafted pepper plant. Grafted plants are supposed to be less prone to disease and more likely to produce a good crop which will ripen outdoors. I had high hopes of harvesting lots of peppers, but the plant has only produced six, three earlier on in the year and three which are still ripening on the plant. I think I'll stick with growing from seed, though I think I'll grow more plants next year as I've become quite partial to peppers this year. I'd be interested to hear which varieties have grown well for you, and if you've grown them in a greenhouse or outdoors.

I didn't manage to get to the allotment this weekend, though we had a gorgeous day here on Sunday. Instead we took a walk at Newmillerdam Country Park, you can read about it on my other blog, Through The Keyhole.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Decisions, Decisions

It's that time of year again when the seed catalogues are dropping through the letterbox, and we're deciding what we want to grow next year. I've also had a trip to Wyevale Garden Centre at York, where they were selling off packets of seeds for 50p, so I couldn't come away empty handed. I always tend to buy a packet of cucumber seeds when the sale's on as they're always so expensive to buy otherwise. This time I've gone for Prima Top which is a F1 all female, mini fruited greenhouse type. These should have been £3.99 for the packet which only contains five seeds, so I consider 50p to be a bargain.

I bought a packet of marrow seeds in the Wyevale sale too. I've never grown marrow before, but this year, I used some of my overgrown courgettes as marrows and stuffed them with minced beef, tomatoes and feta cheese and they were delicious, so I decided I would grow the real thing next year.

It's very damp and misty here today but there's a couple of sunny days predicted for Sunday and Monday. I'm hoping the forcast is right as I need to put in some serious work on the plot, I'm so behind with everything.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Saving Seeds

This is my first attempt at saving seeds, and I'm doing it out of necessity. This year I have grown a variety of tomato called Tangella. It's a medium sized orange tomato and I'm so pleased with it's taste that I want to grow it again next year. The seeds were kindly given to me and until a couple of days ago, I couldn't find anywhere which sold the seed so I decided to save some myself. I followed the instructions from Matron's 17th September post on her Down On The Allotment blog, and at the moment the seeds are drying out on a saucer. I had mentioned on UK Veg Gardeners that I couldn't find anywhere which sold this seed and I was supplied with the web address for a site called Tomatopedia. It's well worth a look as it sells so many different types of tomato, including Tangella.

Last Christmas, I was bought The Allotment Gardener's Cookbook. I've used it this year and found it really useful. The recipes are divided in to chapters according to which veg is used, but I would now like a cookbook where the recipes are divided in to monthly chapters according to what's in season. I'd be really pleased if anyone could give me any recommendations.

It's a beautiful day today, so different from the weather we had yesterday, I'm sure my allotment must be under a foot of water now after all the rain we had. I had hoped to get to the allotment to pick some more beans, they're still producing really well, but I'll have to go today instead.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Starting To Ripen

I have one chili pepper plant which has produced lots of chilies, but until now they have refused to ripen. Now, one by one, they are turning from green to red. I don't usually cook with chilies so wouldn't have grown the plant had it not been for my daughter buying me a matchbook of seeds for Christmas. This is a variety called Serrano, and the one plant has produced many chilies. Whether we will eat them or give them away remains to be seen.

I thought I would give you an update on the blue potatoes which I grew this year, Blue Danube. I wouldn't have ordered this particular potato had it not been for the fact that I qualified for an offer and bought the potatoes for 99p. The plants produced a good crop and there was little slug damage, however, when it came to boiling they just turned to mush. I tried baking some but their skins turned rock hard, no good for someone like me who thinks the skins are the nicest part of a baked potato. So on the whole, I was rather disappointed with this potato and won't be growing them again.

The garden got a good tidy up at the weekend. The rabbit hutches were brought down from the grass on to the patio for the winter where it's much easier to clean them out and tend to the rabbits' needs. They still get a good run around when the weather permits though. Lots of pots containing summer bedding have now been emptied out in to the compost and put away ready for next year. The garden is definitely winding down ready for winter.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Potatoes For Christmas

After the success of my potatoes for Christmas experiment last year, I decided to grow more again for this Christmas. Last year, I just saved some of the seed potatoes which I bought for planting earlier in the year, but this year I decided to order seed potatoes which were delivered later in the year specifically for planting for Christmas. The varieties advertised were Orla, which is a first early, and Vivaldi, Carlingford and Maris Peer which are all second earlies. When they were delivered the Orlas had been substituted for Bambino. They've all been planted in containers and are growing well. At the moment they're outside but I'll make sure that they're moved in to the greenhouse before we get a frost. I don't heat my greenhouse so they'll be covered with fleece for extra protection. It was lovely last year to have newly harvested potatoes on our Christmas dinner plate.

The weather has picked up again over the last couple of days. Last week was so cold that I turned on the central heating to heat the house through before we got out of bed, but that's been turned off again as the weather has improved. I'm hoping that it stays dry as I want to get plenty of digging done before winter sets in.

My tomatoes are still ripening in the greenhouse. I've noticed lots of people starting to take off their green tomatoes and ripen them on the windowsill but I haven't had to resort to this yet. There's a couple of varieties which I've grown for the first time this year which I will definitely grow again next year. The first is San Marzano, a plum tomato which is ideal for cooking or making sauces with, and it has a lovely flavour when cooked. The second is a heirloom variety, Tangella, which has medium sized orange fruit. I was very kindly given some Tangella seeds to try, and so far I haven't been able to find anywhere which sells them, so I'm making sure that I save some seed. I just hope that I manage to grow them again next year as they're delicious.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Lucky Lucky Me

Many thanks to Damo from Two Chances Veg Plot Blog who hosted a giveaway. I was one of the lucky winners and yesterday I received my prize of a £25 Lands' End voucher and three packets of Nasturtium seeds. I had hoped that I might get to spend the voucher on myself but I made the mistake of showing my twelve year old daughter the website and now she has other ideas. Actually there are some fab clothes on there for girls, I could spend the voucher over and over again on things for her. Thanks again, Damo, you can see that we'll have no trouble spending it.

It's that time of year again when the garden is in desperate need of tidying up. Many plants have finished flowering and stems are wilting and turning brown. I don't tidy the garden like I used to though. I now know how important it is to leave some of those stems and fallen leaves, no matter how unsightly they look, so that the beneficial insects have somewhere to overwinter. I keep meaning to make a bug hotel but another year has nearly passed and I still haven't done it. If I manage to keep the beneficial insects in the garden over winter, then they will hopefully stay and give me their help again next year.

I'm having another great year for beans. I'm still getting huge amounts of French and runner beans from my plants so I intend to freeze some for the winter months. How nice it is to have the taste of summer during those cold months.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Caught In The Act

It's four weeks today since Archie arrived in our household and ever since he's been a little rascal. This is him, caught in the act of eating leaves off my alpine strawberry plant, which to be honest has seen better days. He can't pass this plant without having a nibble. The other day he was running around with a worm dangling from his mouth, but he does help with the garden pests too. The other night when it was quite dark my daughter thought he had picked up a twig so promptly stuck her fingers in his mouth and pulled it out, it turned out that it wasn't a twig at all but a big juicy slug, urgh. Last night he came running in to his bed with a huge snail which I had to retrieve and dispose of. I can see that we've got our hands full with him.

Last year when I installed my small wildlife pond I had high hopes that there would be some frog spawn in there this year. Unfortunately this didn't happen but I'm now keeping my fingers crossed for next year. There have been three resident frogs in there all summer so I'm hoping that they'll stay and raise some young.

I have dug up some more of my maincrop potatoes, Lady Balfour. They're a really nice potato, delicious baked, but sadly quite a few have slug damage. None of my first or second early potatoes had any damage, even though they were left in the ground quite a long time, I've only just finished digging up the International Kidney, and I know that other people have had less damage this year due to it being a dry summer, so that's disappointing. I've decided that next year I will grow my first and second earlies only in containers and that will free up more space at the allotment for maincrop potatoes so that I have plenty to store over winter. I was very happy with my first earlies, Sharpes Express, so I will grow these again next year, but I wasn't keen on International Kidney and I'm not happy with the slug damage in the Lady Balfour so I'm on the lookout for a second early and a maincrop to try next year.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Harvest Time

I had a good haul from the allotment today. I'm still digging up my second early potatoes, International Kidney, but I'm not keen on their flavour or the way they break up on cooking so I won't be growing them again. I've started digging up my maincrop potatoes, Lady Balfour and Blue Danube, a blue variety, but haven't eaten either yet so can't give a verdict on taste. I've also harvested runner beans, three varieties of French beans plus the last three Sonesta which are the yellow beans, chard, curly kale, cavolo de nero, courgettes, tomatoes and a swede.

I've started thinking about crops for the winter. I've already got some curly kale, cavolo de nero, chard and purple sprouting brocolli in the allotment. I have lots of leeks at home which are still waiting to go in, and at the weekend I bought some plug plants from a local market. I got some spring greens and also some savoy cabbage. They were only £1 for each tray and look like strong healthy seedlings.

I don't think I've given the allotment the attention I should have done this year for one reason or another. Even so, I think it's been well worth the £20 per year rent. I've definitely had more than £20 in produce from it, strawberries alone would have probably cost me more than this in a supermarket. Next year I want to give the allotment more of my attention, so I intend to get as much of it dug over before winter comes so that the frosts can help break up the soil. This was my intention last year but somehow it didn't happen and this year it seemed like a mammoth task to get it all done. Let's hope that the weather holds up now so that I manage it this year.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Tomato Varieties

Every year I try some different tomato varieties along with my old favourites such as Tigerella and Gardener's Delight. The new ones I tried this year were Harbinger, Tangella and San Marzano. Harbinger is the one on the left in the photo and Tangella is the light coloured one. The San Marzano were started off quite a while after the others and is only just starting to ripen now so I can't give you my verdict yet, but I'm quite impressed with the others I have grown this year. I think next year I will simplify things a little and grow one salad variety and one cherry variety.

As the season is coming to an end it's time to start thinking of next year. A job for this weekend is to go through my seeds and see what I've got and what I need to buy. I usually go to the Wyevale sale which starts sometime in September where the seeds are on sale for 50p per packet. Some great bargains can be had. In the past I've had a sweet pea collection, five varieties in one packet which should have been over £4, a herb collection, again with five varieties in one packet and again it should have been over £4, and last year I got my cucumber seeds, Bella, which should have been £4.45.

I've really enjoyed writing this blog for the last seventeen months but would also like to include other things about my family life. I toyed with the idea of widening the subject matter of this blog but I would really like to keep this to gardening, so I have started another blog. Keeping with the theme of television programmes my new blog is called Through The Keyhole and will hopefully give you a glance through the keyhole of my front door in to my family life. I hope I will see you there.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

It Was Worth It

It was very late to be planting my onion and shallot sets in May, and although I haven't got a huge crop, and they haven't grown quite as well as they would have done if they were planted earlier, it was worth getting them out. Admittedly, the onions are very small but still useable, but the shallots divided nicely and I have quite a few to be going on with. Next year I will make sure that I plant them out much earlier, but this just goes to show that you will still be rewarded with late crops.

I'm extremely pleased with my potato harvest so far this year. I planted some of my first early potatoes, Sharpes Express, and my second early potatoes, International Kidney, in containers and also some in the allotment. I had great yields from the containers and have only just finished the first earlies which were planted in the allotment. The varieties I chose last year suffered a lot of slug damage in the allotment, but the Sharpes Express suffered none. This may be due to the fact that we've had a dry season this year, or it may be down to the variety. I will grow Sharpes Express again next year. I had never heard of the variety before I chose them this year, but they have been around for about a hundred years, and I've had a great harvest from them. The container grown ones produced a good harvest and the ones at the allotment came out without any damage. The International Kidneys were quite disappointing. They produced a good amount both in containers and in the ground, but they broke up on cooking and the flavour was rather bland. I won't bother growing these again. My maincrop potatoes were just planted at the allotment and haven't yet been dug, but there are two varieties so I will let you know how I've done with those at a later date.

I didn't have much luck with my brassicas last year. This year I've just bunged stuff in and hoped for the best, really leaving things to get on with it. I'm enjoying lots of kale and cavolo de nero at the moment, and there's kohl rabi and swede waiting to be pulled. I think we can overthink things or pander to things too much sometimes.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A New Garden Pest

After years of listening to my daughter's nagging I have finally given in and allowed a little bundle of fluff to enter our lives. This is Archie. He's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and he is fourteen weeks old today. We got him last Thursday and he's settled in really quickly. What a pest he is in the garden though, pulling the heads off my flowers and picking up stones and eating them, as well as chasing the rabbits when they're out in their runs. I'm intending to show him the virtues of having a nice garden rather than a garden full of headless plants, and I'm looking forward to having him down at the allotment with me. I think he's going to need a lot of training before he's at that stage though.

We're picking more and more beans now. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm really impressed with the Sonesta dwarf French beans. They're a waxy yellow bean and are full of flavour, as well as being a heavy cropper. I will definitely grow these again next year. I'm enjoying seeing the splash of yellow on my plate.

I harvested the first of my cavolo de nero this week. I've never grown this vegetable before but this is another that will be a regular on my allotment from now on. I really enjoy green leafy vegetables and this one has a delicious flavour. It's actually a winter vegetable so I'm hoping that I'll get many more pickings over the coming months.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A New Site For Gardeners

A new site for UK gardeners has been launched this week by Gillian Carson of My Tiny Plot. UK Veg Gardeners is a community site and basically does what it says on the tin, it's a site for veg gardeners here in the UK. There's a forum, links to news items, photos of people's veg and groups among other things. Although there are other gardening sites, these tend to be huge covering the whole world, or not specialised enough covering a huge spectrum. Gillian wanted to create a smaller, more intimate site for veg gardeners in the UK. The site has only been launched this week but already is proving to be very popular with many people signing up to become members and lots of content being added. I wish Gillian every success with it, I'm sure that it's popularity will continue to grow. Why not pop over and check it out?

I was thrilled to bits at the back end of last week to receive an email letting me know that I am Dobbies blog of the week. They've given my blog a lovely write-up too. It means a lot to me to know that people find my blog interesting and that they enjoy reading it. I'm so grateful for all the lovely comments my readers leave too, they make my day, so thank you all.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Turn Your Back For Five Minutes...

...well, a fortnight actually, and this is what happens, overgrown courgettes which have turned in to marrows. We returned from our holiday to find that everything is doing well. As I suspected before I left, the tomatoes have started to ripen, as have the peppers which are also turning red.

We had a lovely holiday. It only drizzled one morning and one afternoon out of the whole fortnight so we did really well with the weather. I understand that there was a little more rain than that here in Yorkshire which is probably why everything at the allotment has grown so well, including the weeds!

My French beans are just starting to produce. I've picked the first few which have been eaten over three meals. This year I have grown Sonesta which is a yellow dwarf bean and Blauhilde which is a purple climbing bean, as well as Safari, a dwarf bean and Blue Lake, a climbing bean which I have grown before. I'm very impressed with Sonesta which have produced a good crop from the few plants I have and taste delicious. They also stay yellow when cooked which adds a little colour to the plate. My runner beans have romped up their wigwam whilst I've been away and are now covered in red flowers, so it won't be long before I'm harvesting those too.

Holidays over, it's now time that I tackled those weeds. They're so bad that once I stride in to the thick of them you may never see me again. Wish me luck.

Friday, 23 July 2010

It's Typical

I go on a holiday for a fortnight later on today. How typical is it that my tomatoes are just starting to ripen? I've got a couple which are already on their way to being red, but not red enough to pick them yet, and many more at the same stage as these, which I'm sure will be ripening before my return. These are Tigerella which are a stripy tomato. Although I like to try different tomatoes every year, I always grow these and Gardener's Delight, a cherry variety, along side them.

This week has seen the first of the second early potato containers emptied. This year I chose International Kidney as my second early. This is the same potato as those grown on Jersey and sold under the name of Jersey Royal, however, only those grown on the island are allowed to be called this, all others are known as International Kidney. I got a great harvest from one container, with many quite large sized potatoes.

We've had some miserable weather this week, quite a bit of rain, though lots of it has been at night. I'm happy to say that the sun is out today, just in time for the start of our holiday. The kids finished school yesterday, today is a teacher training day, and hubby is finishing work early, so we're able to get off early. We're having a week in (hopefully) sunny Devon followed by a week in Somerset, so I hope this sunshine continues. See you all in a fortnight.

Monday, 19 July 2010


I love this time of year when the lilies are in bloom, they are one of my favourite flowers. I have had this particular lily in a pot for about four years now, it's quite neglected yet it still keeps on flowering. I know the lily I have in another container is Stargazer, but for the life of me I can't remember the name of this one. I noticed a lily beetle on the leaves the other day, it was swiftly despatched. I see lots of lily beetles at the allotment but this is the first time I've seen one in the garden, it seems they're becoming more common.

I'm enjoying lots of spring onions at the moment. I planted up a whole container of them earlier on in the season and now I'm reaping the reward. I love spring onion with cheese in a sandwich, I know what's for lunch today.

The beans are just starting to flower, they should be ready to pick when I return from my holiday.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


The first of the peas have been picked. They don't seem to have done as well as in previous years, I assume it's because of the dry weather we've been experiencing. There was only enough ready for one meal, but there are lots more pods filling up so hopefully we'll get a bigger batch at the next picking. These are Onward which I grow every year, I think I might have a change next year.

At long last we've had a proper downpour, I can't remember the last one we had. The allotment will be really glad of it, as will the grass which is looking very pale and dried out.

We go on holiday at the end of next week so at the moment I'm trying to get the garden and allotment sorted out ready for our departure. I'm harvesting whatever I can so nothing goes to waste.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

An Unexpected Visitor

We were on our way to the local gala on Sunday when I noticed something moving in the road. It turned out to be this little guy, well, he wasn't actually that little, more the size of a large tortoise. He's a red eared terrapin. We started knocking on doors asking if anyone had lost him, looked for notices in shop windows for anyone missing their pet and asked at the local vet's with no luck, so he's now gone to live with someone who hubby knows who keeps other terrapins. Many people bought these terrapins as tiny pets when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a big TV hit without knowing that they quickly grow to quite a size and can bite. Many were then dumped which has caused problems for wildlife. I'm sure he'll be happy in his new home.

I had high hopes this year of getting more than the measly one cherry which we got last year from our tree. There was lots of blossom on the tree at the beginning of the year but I think it must have suffered the same fate as the blueberries in the late frost. The result was only five cherries which were happily growing but one by one they have all disappeared, I suspect birds have taken them, so there isn't even one cherry to harvest this year.

I have noticed on some blogs that some people are now picking ripe tomatoes. My plants are only just starting to produce small fruits but they're a long way off from being ripe. I thought I must be behind this year so I checked back on my blog posts from last year and it seems that I was at exactly the same position with the tomatoes last year. Blogs are so useful for keeping this kind of information.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Keeping It Native

This Meadow Cranesbill is flowering non stop at the moment. It's a gorgeous colour and as you can see there are many more buds yet to open. It was planted last year in my wildlife border. I used a number of native plants in the border in order to attract beneficial insects to the garden. Native wildlife is best adapted to native plants for food and shelter, so by adding native plants to your garden you will attract more wildlife. I have seen an increase in the varieties, as well as the number of bees and butterflies visiting the garden since last year so the border has worked well. If you would like to know which other plants were used, they are all listed in my post from April last year.

We've had three full trugs of strawberries so far this week, that equates to about fifteen pounds. There will be more to pick today too. I can see that we're going to have to make some jam in order to use them all up. We had a treat on Wednesday evening and melted a bar of chocolate, in to which we dipped some strawberries, delicious but naughty.

There'll be no sweetcorn for us this year. I never planted them out as they seemed to go yellow and stopped growing. Last year's were a disaster too. They were planted out but only grew to about a foot high. I'm wondering now if it's to do with growing them in toilet roll inners. Last year was the first time I'd done this, and they'd always grown well in previous years. I think next year I'll try growing them in plantpots as I have done previously without any problems and see how I go.

My second cucumber is now ready for taking from the plant and there are four courgettes on one plant which will also be ready for harvesting. More tomatoes are growing, and the beans are climbing their wigwams. The early potatoes are being harvested from their containers, and the ones planted at the allotment should be ready. Even the onions and shallots which were planted really late seem to be coming on ok, though I haven't grown them before so I can't really tell if they're doing well or not. On the other hand, the leeks and squash are still waiting to go out, there's nowhere dug over for them yet. Most of the brassicas wilted and died. This happened last year too, I just can't seem to grow them from seed, though a few seem to have made it. The weeds aren't just threatening to take over anymore, they're actually doing it. I really must spend more time down there.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Strawberry Glut

I can't believe how well the strawberries are performing this year. This is what my hubby picked last night, about five pounds, and we're getting this amount nearly every day. My daughter, who is a proper strawberry fan, is eating them for breakfast, lunch at school, and tea. She follows that with some for supper before she goes to bed, nothing like getting the most out of the strawberry season. I've got Honeoye, Elsanta and Alice, though which is which I don't really know as I can't remember which were planted where, so much for my carefully made notes. This is one glut which I don't mind at all, there's always someone willing to take strawberries off your hands if you've got too many, my mum and dad have been enjoying them too.

What about the weather? It's been fantastic for sitting and watching hubby and son playing cricket on Saturday, not so good for getting round to weeding the allotment. I think I would have burnt to a crisp if I'd spent any serious time down there this weekend, all we've managed to do is pick the strawberries and give everything a bit of a water, though the water butts have now dried up and as there's no water on the site we have to take water with us when we go which is a bit of a bind, but we do manage.

I noticed at the weekend that the first of the tomatoes are just starting to grow. I've had flowers for a while but it seems to have taken a long time to see any fruit. Just a matter of time now before I taste those first sun warmed tomatoes.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

As Cool As A Cucumber

My first cucumber is just about ready for harvesting. This is Bella which is an F1 variety and has been bred to only produce female flowers, so there's none of the hassle of having to remove the males. I also sowed the seeds of a variety called Cucino, which is a small mini cucumber. I thought it would be ideal for lunch boxes but I haven't been as lucky with that one. The seeds germinated ok but the plants have just given up. I sowed a second batch of seed but the same thing happened to them. Cucumber seed is so expensive too. The Bella seeds should have cost £4.45 for the packet which contained four seeds. Luckily I got them in the Wyevale sale for 50p, bargain.

The strawberries are continuing to produce really well, much to my daughter's delight. She's taking them to school every day to have with her lunch. The plants have been netted to stop the birds from taking them and I haven't come across any slug damaged ones either.

My allotment has been a little neglected this year, mainly due to the fact that the kids have taken on more out of school activities which demand my time, and also because we couldn't get a head start at the beginning of the year because of the bad weather. It's looking very weedy and overgrown at the moment so we're spending quite a bit of time down there trying to get it ship shape. I still haven't got my squash in, but I'll hopefully find time this coming week to do that.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Lottie Hobby

We had a lovely day at Gardener's World Live on Saturday. The sun came out, though it was a little breezy. It didn't seem quite so full as it was last year, so it was more enjoyable not being crushed in a crowd, in fact I didn't get my shins bashed at all by any plant trollies. There were some lovely show gardens and my daughter, being a guide, was happy that the girl guide centenary garden had won best in show. It was actually very cleverly designed, representing rainbows, brownies and guides, with messages from the children themselves written on to message sticks. I was quite restrained and didn't spend too much money, but I had to have a fuchsia I saw, named Lottie Hobby, very apt. It's quite an unusual fuchsia, very small flowers and leaves. I lost many of my fuchsias this winter so I will have to make sure that I give them extra protection this year.

We went to the allotment on Friday evening and picked the first of the strawberries, which we took in our picnic to Gardener's World Live. There's loads of fruit on the plants, we just need them to hurry up and ripen now.

We've got glorious sunshine here today. I've just sneaked a peek at the weather forcast for the rest of the week and the good weather looks set to continue. Looks like we'll be getting the watering cans out.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Nemesia - Vanilla Scent

Last June, I blogged about two plants which I had bought, Nemesia - Vanilla Scent and Heliotrope - Butterfly Kisses. Both of these plants are usually grown as annuals but are in fact tender perennials. As they were being grown in containers I thought I would have a go at overwintering them in the greenhouse. Unfortunately, we had an extremely cold winter and many plants which I usually successfully overwinter died, I didn't hold out much hope for the nemesia and heliotrope. On inspecting the containers in spring, it was obvious that there was no life whatsoever in the heliotrope so it went into the compost. I nearly made the same mistake with the nemesia, it looked dead so it was put to one side ready for the compost heap. As hubby was filling up the compost he noticed a tiny green leaf on the nemesia so called me over to ask if I was sure it was dead. It got a reprieve and look at it now. I won't be so quick to consign things to the compost in future, thinking they're dead, or thinking that they won't last more than one season. Nemesias are one of my favourite flowers. I always include them in my summer bedding, they look lovely in the little window boxes on my daughter's wooden playhouse.

I had a few comments on my last post mentioning how early it is to be harvesting my first courgette. This prompted me to look back at my earlier posts to see when I harvested my first courgette last year, and it turned out to be the 19th July, this was from a plant in a container in the garden, the plants at the allotment didn't start producing until later. I planted my first courgette seeds this year on the 21st March hoping to get an early crop, and sowed some more seeds at a later date in the hope that when the first plant gives up producing, I will still have other plants which are still going strong. I don't mind a courgette glut, I love them.

We've had some gorgeous days again this week but it's looking very overcast today. I'm hoping the sun will come out again at the weekend ready for my trip to Gardener's World Live.

Monday, 14 June 2010

It Must Be Love

I decided to empty one of my potato containers at the weekend and this is what I found, well, not the courgette of course, that's the first one of the season which was taken from the allotment on Saturday. These potatoes are Sharpes Express, a first early which I haven't tried before, and as I haven't yet eaten them I can't give you the verdict on taste. Apparently, they're quite a dry potato so they're good for chips too. There were quite a lot of very small potatoes which would have grown if I'd left them a little longer, but I'm pleased with the amount of reasonable sized ones. Just look at the cute little heart which I found. I have more containers which I will leave to grow on for a while longer, I just couldn't resist my first taste of the season which I will have tonight smothered in butter.

I'm looking forward to the weekend as I have tickets for Gardener's World Live. I went last year but was going to give it a miss this year as I'm having to watch the pennies quite carefully at the moment since I have given up work. I then found that Tesco's were offering the tickets on their Clubcard Deals. I swapped £6 of Tesco Clubcard Vouchers for each Gardener's World Live ticket, and as it's free for kids at the weekend it's only cost me £12 in vouchers in total. It was a lovely day out last year and the ticket also gives entry to the BBC Summer Good Food Show, so all I need now is for the weather to be kind. They're open tickets so I can go either day, I'll just wait and see what the weather has in store before I make my mind up whether to go on Saturday or Sunday. If you fancy going to Gardener's World Live but haven't got a ticket, head over to Carrots and Kids where Deb is offering ten pairs of tickets to ten lucky winners.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

What A Disappointment

After the success I had with my blueberries last year, I was hoping for similar results again this year. Unfortunately, the late frosts in May dashed any hopes of a bumper harvest. One of the bushes has no developing berries at all, and the other has only a few. As you can see, the blossom has completely shrivelled and died. All I can do is put it down to experience and remember next year to cover the bushes with fleece if a late frost is forcast again. I thought it was going to be the same with the strawberries as many of the flowers had a telltale black mark in the middle of them which is knows as black eye. These flowers will not set fruit, but luckily, the plants have produced many more flowers and it looks like I will get a bumper harvest from the strawberries at least.

I was thrilled to be given the Beautiful Blogger award by Scented Sweetpeas this week. Thank you very much, it's always good to know that people enjoy reading my blog. This is the second time this award has been given to me so I will spare you all reading another ten things about me. As it's always so difficult to choose a few of the many blogs I read to pass the award on to, I will nominate you all. If you would like to accept the award the rules are to display the award on your blog, list ten things about yourself, pass the award on to other blogs which you feel deserve it and leave a comment on their blog to let them know that you have given them the award.

There hasn't been much gardening done here this week because of the weather. I was hoping that it was going to be fine as my son has had two field trips to go on with school, but no such luck, it's still raining. The weeds are calling out from my allotment so I'm hoping that it brightens up at the weekend so that I can go and do something about them.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Better Late Than Never

It's been quite a while since I last posted, mainly due to the school holidays last week. Hubby took the week off work too so we ended up making the most of the good weather and headed off all over the place enjoying ourselves. I took this photo last week thinking that I would do a post, but then never got round to it. Do you remember me mentioning the Micro Tomato seeds which I was having trouble germinating? The first batch of seeds I planted never came up and I only had three more seeds to try. Well, one of the seeds was ok and this is the plant now. It's potted up in a six inch plantpot, so you can gauge it's size, yet it has already got it's first trusses. It won't grow much taller now, but it should get some more foliage. Last year I got loads of tiny tasty tomatoes off one of these plants. It's so small that it lives up to it's name of Micro Tomato, and the fruit is tiny too.

As I've already mentioned, we had a lovely week last week. On Sunday we visited Newmillerdam where we saw coots and Canada geese nesting on the water and some had young in their nests. Mallards were swimming on the lake with their young following behind. Duncombe Park was the setting for a country fair on bank holiday Monday and after that we headed in to Helmsley which is a gorgeous little village. I would have liked to have visited the walled garden while we were there but we didn't have time, so it will give us a reason to return in the not too distant future. We had some rain on Tuesday so we stayed under cover of a shopping centre as my daughter had outgrown her school shoes and needed new ones before she went back to school today. The sun was back on Wednesday so we headed off to the Yorkshire Dales, my favourite place. We spent a while in Hawes before driving down to Burnsall where we parked by the side of the river for our picnic and a paddle. No school holiday would be complete without a trip to the coast, so on Thursday we spent the day in Scarborough. It was a gorgeous day, warm enough for my daughter to don her bikini on the beach.

On Friday, my daughter had been invited to her friend's house for a sleepover, so we decided to stay at home and I managed to find the time to plant up my hanging baskets, plant up all my containers with bedding plants and get my tomato plants planted in to their final positions in the greenhouse. I also evicted many of the plants waiting to be taken to the allotment from my greenhouse, so they're now on staging in the garden until I can find some more time to get them in to the allotment.

We spent most of Saturday at the allotment. Hubby built my bean wigwams and I discovered that I did have some spare space, so I've decided to grow some runner beans after all. I planted out two different types of climbing French beans, and have sown seeds direct for the runner beans. I noticed that my first courgette is growing, so it won't be long now until there's a glut. I was also pleased to see plenty of strawberries waiting to ripen. Many of the strawberry flowers were caught by the frost but lots more have opened so all is not lost.

I would have liked to have spent more time at the allotment yesterday but the heavens opened so I spent the day catching up on housework instead. I'm hoping to get down again later on today as the weeds are threatening to take over.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Photo Challenge

Tanya from Allotments 4 You set me a challenge last week to post the 8th photo from my 8th photo album. It turns out that the photo I had to post is connected with another of my hobbies, genealogy. This photo is of my great grandparents on my dad's side, and was kindly sent to me by a distant relative who I met through tracing my family tree. The lady on the left is my great grandmother's sister. I had a bit of a problem tracing further back than the gentleman in the photo as it turned out that his father was born with a different surname to the one he later took. I did eventually manage to get back to the 1700's on this side of the family, but I'm stuck again. I don't think I'll manage to get any further back as my leads have dried up. Genealogy is a great hobby with many twists and turns, and I've met many distant relatives who I never new existed.

The following are the blogs I would now like to challenge to post the 8th photo in their 8th folder:-

Eight by Six Gardening Blog
Flighty's Plot
Growing Our Own
Ma Larkin's
Moj Vrt
Pam's English Cottage Garden
The Green Grower
Two Chances Veg Plot Blog

I should have spent much more time on the allotment this weekend than I did, but I couldn't let the beautiful weather pass without making the most of it. On Friday evening we went for a walk in some woods near where my parents live. I used to play in these woods as a child, and it brought back lots of happy memories. The bluebells were in full bloom and looked so pretty.

On Saturday we decided to head off to Yorkshire Lavender. This place will look fantastic when the lavender is flowering, it's planted en masse and everything is really well labelled. There are quite a few plants to buy and many herbs, including lots of rarer varieties which you don't usually see in garden centres, but I found them quite expensive so I was very restrained and didn't buy anything. I don't think I've seen as many mint varieties all together in one place before.

About three miles from Yorkshire Lavender is Castle Howard, so before heading home we decided to call in to their plant centre. I was surprised by the wide variety of plants on offer and at reasonable prices too. There is a courtyard at Castle Howard with a farm shop, book shop, gift shop, craft shop and cafe, as well as the plant centre, and you are able to go in all these without paying the admission fee, which I think is rather steep for a family.

On Saturday evening we had a quick trip to the allotment and I managed to get my dwarf French beans planted, as well as giving everything a really good water. I was pleased to see that some of my potatoes are just showing through the soil so after a little more growth I will have to earth them up.

We spent yesterday in the garden. My son was off playing cricket, my daughter had her paddling pool out and had friends round whilst hubby and I did some tidying up. One of my Christmas presents off hubby was a walk in plastic greenhouse, quite a bit bigger than the four tier greenhouse which I use inside my normal greenhouse, so we put that up yesterday and moved some of the seedlings in to that. I haven't used it before as it's a little flimsy for cold weather. I didn't want to put my seedlings in any danger of getting frosted, but I think they should be ok now. I'm trying to free up some space in my normal greenhouse as it's time that my tomato plants were potted up and set in to their final positions. They've started flowering so it won't be long now before they start setting fruit.

This week is Chelsea week. I'm not lucky enough to have a ticket to go, so I shall be watching all the highlights from the comfort of my own home. Some days there are three programmes on, so to avoid missing anything I have already set Skyplus to tape them all.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Green Seasons

I've been lucky enough to win another blog giveaway, this time on Monica's SmarterFitter blog. The prize was the Green Seasons Cookbook by Rachel Demuth. The recipes are seasonally inspired and many contain vegatables which I'm growing on the allotment. The seasons are divided up into seasonal vegetables, small eats, large eats and sweet eats, and there's extra chapters such as accompaniments, dressings, salsas, sauces and chutney, and techniques. Though I haven't had chance to have a proper read of it yet, I've had a quick flick through, and there are some wonderful recipes. This book will certainly appeal to those with an allotment or who grow their own vegetables. Thank you, Monica, I can see that this book will be well used.

I finally managed to get my maincrop potatoes planted on Sunday. I heaved a sigh of relief as it's taken me so long to find the time. I had eight tubers left over so I gave those to my dad. He's got a small area in his garden where he grows a few veg, and he hasn't planted any potatoes this year, so he was pleased to take them off my hands. I also planted my shallots. I know it's very late in the year to be planting shallots, but I'd already bought them so they might as well go in.

My beans have all been sown now, I'm just waiting for them to germinate. The weather is supposed to be improving, so the dwarf French beans which had already been sown will be able to go out very soon.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

It's Pinocchio

Do you remember last October when I mentioned that my daughter was taking part in a bulb growing competition at Wyevale Garden Centre? She could choose three bulbs of either Pinocchio or Red Riding Hood tulips, and then had to write a diary and record how they grew. We couldn't remember which variety she chose, but once they were in bloom we were in no doubt that they're Pinocchio. My daughter decided to plant them in a container and topped the container off with bellis, which the tulips grew through. She handed in her diary last weekend and was thrilled to find out that she had won the competition. The prize was supposed to be a growbag with a tomato, pepper and cucumber plant, but they had also added to the prize with a watering can, some hand tools and some seeds, which was very generous. I'm quite intrigued by the pepper plant she was given as it's a grafted plant, which is supposed to make it more vigorous and it's supposed to produce up to 70% more fruit. We'll wait and see.

We had a lovely day out yesterday at Lotherton Hall where there was a garden show on. I picked up a convallaria manjalis - lily of the valley, which has been on my wish list for quite a while, but which I never get round to buying, and also a hesperis - sweet rocket plant, which is good for attracting butterflies and other beneficial insects. This will go in my wildlife border. As well as horticultural displays and trade stands, there were other attractions such as a sheepdog display, a shire horse display and a reptile and exotic animal house where the kids got to handle a tarantula, lizards, a baby meercat, a barn owl and a huge tortoise amongst other things. It was a great day out, and on our doorstep as Lotherton Hall is only about four miles from my house.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

It's Bean Time

I think the weather has now warmed up sufficiently to sow my beans. I'm quite glad that I've held off until now as we've had some very chilly days recently, but if sown now, by the time they're ready to plant out the weather should be fine. I have already sown my dwarf beans, Safari, which I grew last year and were delicious, and Sonesta, which is a new one for me. They're a yellow waxy bean and supposed to be a heavy cropper. I've also got another dwarf bean yet to sow, Cantare, which were included in the seeds I won in the competition on Eight by Six blog. The climbing beans I've gone for this year are Blue Lake, which I grew last year. These kept on producing until very late in the season and had a great taste too. The other climbing bean I've gone for this year is Blauhilde, which is a purple bean. As you can see, all the beans I've chosen this year are French beans. I'm still unsure whether or not to grow some runner beans too. I think I'll wait and see what room I've got left.

Although I had other commitments at the weekend, I had hoped to snatch an hour or two in order to get my maincrop potatoes planted. Unfortunately that didn't happen, so they're still waiting to go in. I should be able to get that done this week, time's running out now.

I'm hoping to spend some time tidying up the garden this week. The grass is desperate for a hair cut, and the rest of the garden has been neglected in favour of the allotment. I find it very hard to get the balance quite right, one suffers because of the other, or a bit is done in both, but neither are done to satisfaction. I must work out how to manage them both better.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Seed Swaps

I have so many seeds in my seed stash that there's no way I will ever sow them all. I like to try new varieties each year, so those left from the previous year will probably never get used. Some packets of those that I do choose to grow each year will contain more seeds than I will ever use, especially before the 'sow by' date, some contain literally thousands of seeds. Then there's those seeds which come free as a gift in a magazine. I hate waste, so a great way of passing on these seeds to someone who wants them is through a seed swap. I have taken part in many seed swaps on a forum I belong to, Allotments 4 All, there is a link in my side bar. Some swaps can be between two people who are looking for specific seeds, and some swaps can be amongst a group of people, where a parcel of seeds will be posted to each member of the swap group, they will take out the seeds they require and add some more of their own surplus seeds to the parcel. Seed swaps are great if you are looking for a particular seed and can't find a stockist, or if you only want a few seeds of a particular variety rather than a whole packet. Last year, I swapped something for some Lunaria - Honesty with Georgie from Little London Garden. As you can see, they are now in bloom. I hadn't thought of cutting them for a vase, but stole the idea when I saw Jeanne's lovely display on Tales From A Cottage Garden. I took the photo outside as those taken inside the house didn't show the true colour of the flowers. The seed heads are just starting to form, they are used widely in dried flower displays and I remember my grandma always used to have them in the house.

The bank holiday weekend wasn't such a wash out as we were led to believe it was going to be. Saturday was a lovely day with plenty of sunshine, Sunday was a little windy but still dry, and yesterday was sunny with a few rain showers. I managed to get my first and second early potatoes planted on Saturday as well as my first batch of peas. My maincrop potatoes are still waiting to go in, but hopefully I'll get those in this week. I don't feel quite so behind now that the earlies are in though. I need to sow some more peas now as I plan on sowing them successionally to lengthen the harvest. I planted my onion sets last week which I know is very late, but I should still get a crop from them, I expect they'll just be very small. I noticed on Saturday that there are already some green shoots showing. I haven't got around to planting the shallots, I don't know if it's worth putting them in now or not.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Potato Progress

Do you remember the potatoes that I planted in containers back on the 20th February? I thought I would update you on their progress. After planting three tubers to a container, they were kept in the greenhouse covered in fleece as the weather was still very cold at that time. They took a while to get going, and at one point I thought I may have lost them. Eventually they did start sprouting, and once that happened there was no stopping them. I kept adding more compost to the container as the foliage grew, this helps the plant to produce more tubers, and also prevents those tubers near the surface of the compost being exposed to light, which makes them turn green and makes them poisonous. As you can see from the photo, the container is now full with compost. I planted some containers with Sharpes Express, which is a first early, and some containers with International Kidney, which is a second early. First earlies can take as little as ten weeks to maturity. Working from the 20th February when they were planted, ten weeks would be this Saturday, however, as they took a while to get going and start to grow I will give them a few more weeks before I harvest them. The International Kidney took even longer to get going, most likely because they are a second early, and these take longer than the first earlies to maturity.

I wish I could also give some progress on potatoes planted at the allotment, but unfortunately family commitments have taken their toll, and they're not even planted yet. From reading information on planting times, it would seem that first earlies and second earlies can be planted up to the end of May, and main crop potatoes can be planted up to the middle of May, so all is not lost yet. I am determined that I will get them in eventually. It will just mean that I'm harvesting a little late this year.

The weather is supposed to be taking a turn for the worse towards the end of this week, but I'm hoping that we get some fine weather over the weekend to enable me to get to the allotment. The jobs I'm wanting to get done initially are planting potatoes, getting my peas in and building my bean wigwams.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Spring Bulbs

In the autumn, I treated myself to lots of spring bulbs, tulips, daffodils, narcissus and many more. Most of them were for the allotment, so that I would be able to cut them and bring them home to brighten up the house, but a few were for the border in the garden. Most of the garden ones are now in bloom, the daffodils have been out for a while, some tulips are out now and some are still to come. Seeing all the lovely colours makes me kick myself that I didn't get round to planting those intended for the allotment. I do this year after year, not only with bulbs but also with plants, which languish in their pots whilst I decide on a place to plant them. Some bulbs which did get planted were the Fritillaria Meleagris - Snake's Head Fritillary, which is a gorgeous little flower and one of our native wildflowers. Not only do I have these little checkered flowers in a deep purple/plum colour, but also a white, which also has a checkered pattern to it. Do watch out though if you have any in your garden as the Lily Beetle will decimate them. This year I really must do better and get some bulbs planted at the allotment so that this time next year my house will be brightened up with lots of colour.

I have made a decision about the beds at the allotment. Last year my beds measured approximately ten foot by four foot. This year I decided that I would do away with the paths in between the beds and make two beds in to one, making each bed ten foot square. Whilst digging over the allotment and planting, I'm finding it frustrating that I'm having to stand on the soil which has just been dug in order to reach the middle of the bed. Also, I know it's all in the mind, but somehow it keeps you motivated to dig over two smaller beds rather than one bed which measures the same. It makes you feel as though you have achieved more. So with this in mind I have decided to go back to the smaller beds. I know I waste space having more paths, but I feel I can manage this way better.

This weekend I intend to get my squash and sweetcorn planted. They will be started off indoors, and by the time they're ready to go out, the risk of frost should have passed. I've never grown squash before, but I have a few varieties to try, Butternut, Cha Cha, Carnival and Turks Turban. I will ensure that they have a much larger bed then four foot by ten foot as I know they like to sprawl.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Cherry Blossom

At the beginning of last year, I bought a cherry tree. As I am short on space in my garden it is planted in a half barrel. It's a Stella, which is a dessert cherry and has been grafted on to dwarf rootstock to keep it compact. Having it's roots contained in the half barrel will also prevent it from growing tall. Last year I got the grand sum of one cherry, which I didn't point out to my daughter who would have fought me for it, but instead greedily kept to myself without sharing. This year there is lots of blossom on the tree, so I'm hoping that we'll all get a taste this time.

Last week I was given two lovely awards from Tanya at Allotments 4 You. These are the Beautiful Blogger Award and the One Lovely Blog Award. It's always nice to receive awards, so thank you very much, Tanya.

The rules of the awards are to link to the blog which gave you the award, list seven random things about yourself and pass the awards on to other blogs which you feel deserve them.

So, for my random seven things:-

1) I had to wear a brace on my teeth when I was young. I had one with a plate which covered the roof of my mouth, but I hated it so much that I used to take it out as soon as I was on my way to school and didn't put it back in until I was round the corner from home. Consequently, it didn't work, so I ended up having to have one which was glued on to my teeth to prevent me taking it out.

2) I left school at the age of 16. I was due to go back after the summer holidays to start A levels, but decided during the holidays that I didn't want to return. My mum wasn't very happy and told me that I had better get a job before the start of school, otherwise I would be going back. I managed to get a job in a bank within the week.

3) I met my hubby in a pub where I was working. After our first date, I told my mum that I would marry him, and he proposed three months later. We'll be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this year.

4) I'm a Cancer survivor. It will be 10 years in December since I had surgery to remove a tumour, I was given chemotherapy afterwards. My sister had died from Cancer the year before.

5) One of my hobbies is genealogy. I have traced my family tree back to the 1700's and have been in touch with a few long lost relatives, including my mum's cousin. I managed to arrange for them to meet, the first time they had seen each other in over 60 years.

6) I can touch my lower right arm with my right thumb, and my lower left arm with my left thumb.

7) My ears are pierced twice. I haven't worn earrings in the top holes for about 20 years, but they never heal up.

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

You are under no obligation to accept the award or pass the award on, but I wanted to let you know that I enjoy your blogs.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I Love A Bargain

Seeing Hellebores on many blogs this spring has renewed my desire to own one. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited my local nursery last week to discover a Hellebore on the reduced rack. OK, it's now on it's way out, and it's flowers have now faded to green, but I'm sure it will flower again beautifully next year. It didn't have a label with it so I don't know it's name, but you can just see a faded pink colour on the petals, so I should think it will turn out to be a pink variety. I really need to get some more colour in the garden over autumn, winter and spring, so this will go a little way to making this happen.

I spent some time at the allotment on Saturday and Sunday hoping to get my potatoes planted, but the ground was still very wet so I decided against it. More digging has been done though, so they should be going in very soon. Even with the lovely weather we had at the weekend, it takes time for the ground to dry out after all the rain we've had beforehand.

I also managed to get some tidying up done in the garden. My border got weeded and dug over, and I planted out a few sweetpeas, the rest will be planted at the allotment. I also planted a couple of Aquilegia - McKana Hybrid which I have grown from seed, and a Dicentra - Spectabilis Alba which was sent to me as a cutting from Georgie, and which I successfully overwintered in the greenhouse.

I saw lots of bees, butterflies and ladybirds around at the weekend, the warm weather must have brought them out of hibernation. The butteflies were Red Admirals, and I'm hoping that seeing them so early this year is a good omen as last year there didn't seem to be many around, well apart from the Cabbage Whites at the allotment, hoping to jump onto my brassicas. A couple of weeks ago I saw two Goldfinches in the front garden feeding on the seeds in the feeder. Last week I saw one in the back garden. I have never seen Goldfinches in the garden before, so I'm hoping that they stick around.
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