Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Two For Joy

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.

Photo taken at Temple Newsam on Saturday.

Wishing you all a joyful, happy and healthy 2014. Hope it's a great growing year for us all.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Blog Of The Month - Review

This year, I dedicated one post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is where I featured a blog I was enjoying reading. Some of the blogs I featured were new to me, others were ones I'd been reading for a while. I hoped that by doing this, I might introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that many of you already read the blogs I featured.

I thought I'd list the blogs I featured each month in case any of you missed the original posts. They're all definitely worth a read.

January - A Whole Plot of Love
February - Annie's Little Plot
March - Gardens and Wildlife
April - A Rich Tapestry
May - Dig The Outside
June - Rusty Duck
July - Above The River
August - An Urban Veg Patch
September - Living On The Edge
October - The Urban Cottage
November - Grow My Own Eden
December - A Gardener's Weather Diary

If you haven't yet visited any of the blogs I've mentioned, I can highly recommend them. Do pay them a visit, and don't forget to tell them that I sent you.

I should just mention that the photo which accompanies this post has nothing to do with my Blogs Of The Month. I snapped these daisies yesterday at Temple Newsam, the grass there is covered in them.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Monthly Plants 2013

This year, I took the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and purchased a plant each month which was in flower for my garden. I hoped that by doing this, I would have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

I thought I'd list the plants I chose, firstly so I've got a record all in one place, but also to give other people an idea of plants which will be flowering in any particular month.

January - Cyclamen
February - Primrose
March - Pulmonaria Angustifolia Blaues Meer
April - Arabis Spring Charm
May - Aquilegia Vulgaris Clementine Purple
June - Scabiosa Columbaria Barocca
July - Lewisia Special Mix
August - Liriope Royal Purple
September - Dianthus Sunflor Charmy
October - Salvia Nemorosa Ostfriesland
November - Sedum Spectabile Brilliant
December - Hellebore

I'm pleased with the plants I've chosen throughout the year, they've added more variety in to the garden as well as plenty of colour.

As you can see from the photo, the cyclamen which I bought last January have survived and are ready to burst in to flower again ready for January 2014 so my plan is really working.

I've enjoyed visiting a nursery each month and choosing which plant to buy. It's definitely worth doing if you want year round colour in the garden.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Holly, snapped on our walk at Lotherton yesterday.

I'd like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas. Hope it's a good one.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Hellebore For December

This year, I'm taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visiting a nursery each month with a view to buying a plant which is in flower for my garden. Doing this should ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

I've seen snowdrops in flower starting to appear on blogs, and as I have very few of them in my own garden, I thought it might be nice to acquire a few more as my December plant. However, after visiting numerous garden centres and nurseries, I've been unable to find any which are already blooming. In fact, only one of the garden centres I visited had any at all. It was time for plan B.

I had to go in to Leeds today, very last minute Christmas shopping. It wasn't as busy as I'd expected actually, which was good, and I'd only got a couple of things to buy so I wasn't there long. I decided to pop in to the market and I managed to find this beautiful hellebore for the princely sum of £2.45. I'm not very knowledgeable where hellebores are concerned, so I don't know the variety, but as the sign stated it was a Christmas Rose, it may be helleborus niger. With only a few days to go until Christmas and with a name such as Christmas rose, I thought it would be fitting as my December plant.

There are very few seasonal flowers for sale in garden centres and nurseries in December, at least in the ones I've visited, but it's at this time of year that my garden needs something to brighten it up. I think the best place to look for plants at this time of year could possibly be the internet, unless I travel further afield to specialist nurseries.

I knew that December would be a challenge in itself with this challenge and I was right.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

An Early Christmas Gift

A friend called round on Tuesday to drop off some Christmas gifts. Among the gifts for me was one I had to open immediately, this beautiful orchid. I already have two orchids, they've been in flower every Christmas for the last five years, but this is the first Christmas they haven't flowered so it's nice to have a new plant which is blooming for the festive period. It's a Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid, and contrary to what many people believe, they're so easy to care for. I water mine once a week by allowing the water to run straight through and drain off, they don't like to stand in water, and when they've finished flowering I cut the flower spike right down to the base. This encourages them to send up another flower spike and they begin to bloom all over again.

We haven't spent any time at the allotment lately. November and December always seems to be such a busy time of year for us, not only with Christmas on the way but there's always lots of family commitments around this time too. I'm hoping that the weather stays mild over the festive period, with Hubby off work, we should then be able to get a few jobs done.

The wind's back again. We had some big gusts last night as well as a torrential downpour, and it seems as though the windy weather is here to stay for a while yet. A couple of panels have blown out of the greenhouse again, but I don't think it's worth putting it back together just yet, no doubt it'll only blow out again in the coming days with the wind that's forecast. It's lovely and sunny here today though, but very cold.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Self Watering Planters

I've been eyeing up Mark's tomato planters for a while now. Mark blogs on Mark's Veg Plot blog and has mentioned these planters a few times. They're self watering planters and are supplied with a feeder tube and reservoir. They work by holding water in the reservoir which is then delivered in to the compost by capillary action keeping it consistently moist. At the beginning of November, I noticed that there was an offer on Amazon, the 40cm planters were reduced to £5.87 each from £7.99 and the matching drip trays which they stand on were reduced to £2.99 each from £3.99. Hubby said he'd treat me, so I ordered three and I'm now looking forward to trying them out next year. I have to say that this size is quite large and will take quite a bit of compost to fill them, I think I could have possibly gone for the 35cm and they'd still be large enough to house a healthy tomato plant. Anyway, there should be no excuse for my plants under performing next year, certainly not down to watering anyway, these containers should ensure that the plants get exactly the right amount of water when they need it.

The wind did get up again over the weekend, though it was only in the early hours of Sunday morning and it was nowhere near as bad as we'd had it the week before. It's a bit gusty again today, but not too bad, and the greenhouse is still standing, thank goodness.

I've noticed lots of blue tits around again just recently. They seemed to disappear for a time but there's plenty of them back on the feeders again. They're a regular visitor to my window feeder, it's lovely to see them at such close quarters. I got my window feeder for Christmas last year and I can highly recommend them. There's lots of different types, but they all cling to the window with suction cups and once filled with a little bit of seed, the birds just can't keep away. I've had blue tits, coal tits, great tits and robins on mine, and even gold finches on a couple of occasions. A regular visitor is the collared dove, I have them queueing up for a turn. I'm so impressed that I've bought a couple of them as gifts this Christmas, I hope the recipients enjoy them as much as I enjoy mine.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thinking Ahead

I've already bought or ordered just about all the seeds I need for next year, so I already know what I'll be growing. I suppose there'll be one or two extras which creep in nearer the time, but the staples are already chosen. I've decided to cut down on tomatoes next year, not the number of plants I'm going to grow but the different varieties. There's only three types which I've bought, though an extra one or two more might be added later. The first is Ailsa Craig. This is a medium sized tomato and one which is known for having a good taste. My dad is a fan of this one and always used to grow it, so I'm sure he'll be pleased to see this on my list. The second is Gardener's Delight, a must have as it's a variety which rarely lets me down, either in yield or in taste. This one is a cherry tomato and delicious when picked from the vine and popped straight in the mouth while still warm from the sun. The last one I've chosen is Totem, a bush variety. I grew this last year and was so impressed with the yield that I'm growing it again. The plants were literally covered in medium sized fruit which had a good flavour. I also like the fact that bush varieties require much less maintenance than cordons. I still had to give the plants some support by the way of a cane as the huge amount of fruit produced on the plants made them inclined to be top heavy and topple over, but there was no pinching out of side shoots or tying in as they grew. I usually grow a plum variety but haven't been very successful with any I've tried in the past. San Marzano are a favourite but they always ripen very late in the season and have never given me a very big crop so I'm not going to bother next year. One which I may grow again is Costoluto Fiorentino, a beefsteak variety which I grew for the first time this year. It was just like biting in to a very ripe peach, it was so juicy and sweet. I have a few seeds left so I may give them another go.

Hubby had some trees tidied up at work so he asked the tree surgeon if he would bag up some of the resulting wood chips for him. I've now got quite a few bags of the stuff which I'll be able to lay out some paths at the allotment with. I know that some sites have wood chip delivered free of charge, I wish this happened on our site as I could certainly make use of some more.

The fence panel which got blown out in the high winds last week wasn't as damaged as I first thought. After Hubby nailed the top back on, it slotted back in to place between the concrete posts, so that's saved us a bit of money. We managed to find all the bits of the greenhouse which had blown in to various neighbour's gardens and that's also been put back together. How long it will stay that way for remains to be seen. More wind has been forecast for this weekend, though I'm not sure if it will hit this part of the country, but stay safe, wherever you are.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Blog Of The Month - December

This year, I'm dedicating one post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is where I feature a blog I'm enjoying reading. Some blogs will be new to me, others may be blogs I've been reading for a while. I hope that by doing this, I can introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that some of you will already read the blogs I feature.

It's a two for one this month. My Blog Of The Month for December is A Gardener's Weather Diary which is written by Martyn. Martyn is the husband of Sue who writes Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments. Many of you will know Sue already but if you don't, you're in for a treat this month as there's links here to two great blogs.

There's so many topics which crop up on Martyn's blog. As you might imagine going by the title of the blog, Martyn follows the weather quite closely and he blogs about the trends he's noticing. It's really interesting, we don't live very far away from each other yet we can often experience very different weather. Martyn sometimes blogs about things which Sue's already blogged about, or vice versa, yet the posts come from very different angles which are always interesting to read.

One of the things I love to read about on Martyn's blog are the birds which he and Sue encourage in to their garden. There's even a camera rigged up to one of the bird boxes so that the babies can be observed hatching from their eggs. Unfortunately, this particular bird box was unoccupied this year, but I'm hoping that a bird takes up residence ready for the next batch of eggs to be laid.

Martyn sometimes touches on his other hobby, steam engines. There's some fabulous photography on the blog of engines he's captured chugging through the beautiful Yorkshire (and beyond) countryside, though I should point out that Sue takes many of these photos too, she's a dab hand with the camera.

If you haven't yet acquainted yourself with Martyn's blog, do pop over, you're in for a treat. I've only touched on a few of the topics which Martyn blogs about here, there's also lots of posts on days out which he and Sue have had, and of course, lots of things about the allotment. Don't forget to tell Martyn that I sent you.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


You may remember the post I did in October about the squash I managed to harvest this year. I'd grown Crown Prince and Queensland Blue and managed two of one variety and one of the other. The Crown Prince squash didn't actually look the colour they should, so I think the seeds I sowed were from a totally different variety, though which, I don't know. I decided that I'd still give them a go and see what they tasted like, I didn't know if they'd be edible or not. You can see that there were lots of seeds, but once scraped out, there was also plenty of flesh. It was cubed and roasted and it tasted delicious. It's a shame I don't know what variety it is as I'd grow it again. I suppose I could save some seeds, but there's no guarantee that they'd come true.

I've had a couple of trips to garden centres recently but you'd think you were in Santa's grotto rather than a place which sells plants. Most things have been pushed aside to accommodate everything you need for Christmas. I do enjoy looking around all the seasonal paraphernalia but I just wish that they'd remember that they're there to sell plants and gardening equipment too. Christmas seems to take over and there's very little else for sale.

The weather here today is terrible. We've got high winds and rain and it doesn't look as though it's going to let up any time soon. The wind got up during the night and we woke to a greenhouse without a door, a side panel out and half the roof missing. I suppose it'll be in one of the neighbour's gardens but I'll wait for the wind to subside before I go looking for it. There's also a broken fence panel so we'll have that to replace. I don't think we've got it as bad as the people in Scotland, and it's expected to hit East Anglia quite bad later on today. I hope everyone's safe.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Up Too Soon

These crocuses aren't supposed to wake up until late winter or early spring, yet here they are poking their heads out of the soil already. This variety is Advance, one I haven't grown before, but its lilac outside and yellow inner drew me to it. It looks like I might get to see it sooner than I thought at this rate. They're tough little things so I'm sure they'll survive whatever winter throws at them, even though they're already shooting.

Last week was a busy week here so nothing at all got done in the garden or on the allotment. I haven't even started digging it over for winter, behind with everything again, as usual. Getting the digging done in autumn is a good idea if the soil is clay as it is on my allotment, as the frost over winter helps to break up the clods of earth. It's something that I don't stress about these days though, I know from past years that whatever doesn't get done now will get done later.

We've only had a couple of frosts so far this year, November seemed to be mild in comparison to other years. I wonder if we're going to be hit with a cold spell soon, it doesn't look as if the next few days are going to change at all going by the five day forecast.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Meet Mavis

I have lots of quirky things in my garden. I don't think they'd count as classy but I don't care, I like my garden to be a fun place to be. You may or may not know that I have a thing about pigs, I love them, so when I saw this little pink porker in a shop in Mevagissey while we were in Cornwall this year, I knew she had to come home with us. She was a bit dirty, as all pigs are, but because of this, her price had been reduced by half, result. It didn't matter to me, she was going to be stood outside in all weathers and she would have got dirty anyway. I won't tell you what Archie uses her for, that's better left unsaid. She stands in the middle of my lawn and makes me smile every time I look at her.

Hubby was hoping to pick up a load of manure for the allotment this weekend. The farm where we get it from is currently up for sale so I don't know how long we'll have our source for, so we really need to make the most of it while we can. We're getting a new car soon too, so we want to transport it in the boot of the car we've got at the moment rather than wait until the new car is here. It's well rotted so it doesn't stink the car out. Unfortunately, we're at the time of year where family matters are taking precedence over the garden and allotment so he didn't manage to get to the farm, though he's hoping to make a trip next weekend.

The weather looks set to stay mild this week, actually warming up on Wednesday and Thursday here. The leaves are still clinging to the trees too. It can't be long now until the really cold weather arrives, after all, we're only just over four weeks away from Christmas now.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Cotoneaster Again

Back in June, I mentioned that the cotoneaster in my front garden was attracting lots of bees and I was asked if I would put a photo of it on my blog, which I duly did. At the time, it was covered in a mass of tiny flowers. I thought now would be a good time to come back to the cotoneaster to show you what it looks like at this time of year. Berries have now replaced the flowers and the little red jewels make the plant glow. In summer, the flowers attract bees, but at this time of year, and throughout winter, the berries attract birds. Blackbirds in particular love to gobble up these berries and it's fascinating sitting and watching them feast. Cotoneaster is definitely the shrub to get if you want to attract wildlife to your garden.

Hubby has now managed to source some bubblewrap so the containers which my small trees are planted in have been swathed in the stuff. It should help to keep the roots from freezing when the cold weather eventually arrives.

It's that time of year again when the bunnies are brought down from the grass on to the patio. Throughout summer, their hutches are moved on to the grass so that the doors can be left open and they can come and go in to their run as they please. In winter, the grass gets so sodden that this isn't an option, so we move the hutches on to the patio. It gives them a bit of protection here against the elements and they get plenty of attention each time someone passes by, they'd be a bit out on a limb on the grass as we don't venture up there as much in winter. They still get carried on to the grass to have a run around on fine days, but at least they're all set for winter now.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Blog Of The Month - November

This year, I'm dedicating one post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is where I feature a blog I'm enjoying reading. Some blogs will be new to me, others may be blogs I've been reading for a while. I hope that by doing this, I can introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that some of you will already read the blogs I feature.

My Blog Of The Month for November comes from Scotland and is written by Rozzie. Grow My Own Eden is a new blog, there's only twenty two posts so far, but I enjoy reading a blog right from the beginning and following the journey. I've gone back and read all of Rozzie's posts, which are really interesting.

Gardening in Scotland can be hit and miss because of the weather, but it doesn't put Rozzie off, as you can see, she makes good use of her greenhouse and packs it to the rafters.

I was really interested in some of the things which Rozzie is growing, things I haven't tried myself such as goji berries, cucamelons, okra and sweet potatoes, not to mention an almond. I'm looking forward to hearing more about these and everything else which Rozzie is growing.

I'm sure there'll be plenty for Rozzie to blog about over the coming months as she is going to try and overwinter various plants. I'll be especially interested to hear if she manages to keep the aubergines growing as I'm sure they'll benefit from being established early in the year.

If you haven't yet had a chance to pop over to Rozzie's blog, do try now as I'm sure you'll enjoy reading it. Don't forget to tell her that I sent you.

Friday, 15 November 2013

One Out Of Two Ain't Bad

You may remember that I sowed a couple of containers towards the end of August, one with beetroot and one with spring onions. I didn't think there was much chance of the beetroot coming to anything and I was right, they germinated well enough but it was just too late in the year for the roots to swell. The spring onions were a different matter. Again, they germinated well, but they've also put on plenty of growth. There's between thirty and forty in this small wooden trough. I suppose I could eat them as they are now, they'd give plenty of flavour, but I prefer my spring onions to have a good sized bulb on them, so I'll leave them over winter and harvest in spring. They'll be perfectly fine over winter if I move them in to the cold greenhouse, I've done it in previous years, and I'll get a good early harvest next year.

I saw on Sue's Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments blog that she's wrapped the containers which she's growing her trees in in bubble wrap to give them a bit of protection over winter. I haven't done this before with my trees, and they've fared perfectly well, even in the harsh winter we had last year, but I don't think you can ever be too careful where the weather's concerned so I'm going to do the same. I'd be very upset if I lost any of my trees so it's a good idea to give them a bit of protection. Hubby is able to get some bubble wrap from work, so I'm just waiting on his firm getting some deliveries now so that I've got a supply with which to wrap the pots. I hope it won't be too long as the colder weather is surely on its way.

We found a hedgehog at the allotment recently. At first, I thought it had gone in to hibernation, but a little investigation revealed that it was unfortunately dead. I just want to mention that hedgehogs need to be a decent weight in order to survive hibernation, at least 600 grams I believe, so please be on the lookout now that winter is on its way for any small ones which are out and about as they would need to be looked after, perhaps by a shelter. There's a decline in the number of hedgehogs which is a sad state of affairs, so they need all the help we can offer.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Sedum For November

This year, I'm taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visiting a nursery each month with a view to buying a plant which is in flower for my garden. Doing this should ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

I absolutely love sedums, so when I saw this beauty, spectabile Brilliant, flowering away in the garden centre, I couldn't resist it for my November plant. It's actually at the end of its flowering period now, it usually flowers from August to November, but it's good enough to brighten up the November garden.

Sedums are a great source of nectar for bees and butterflies, so this plant will go on supplying them very late in the year. I always try to do my bit for wildlife and like to find plants which will help them out, especially when lots of plants have now finished blooming.

Flowering plants are now dwindling in garden centres so it may be a little tricky finding one for December, though I'm sure I'll come across something.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Allotment Planner Giveaway Winner

The giveaway for The Allotment Planner ended at noon today. A winner was drawn at random from all the entries received and I'm pleased to announce that the winner is CJ from Above The River. Congratulations, CJ. Can you please let me have your name and address details so that I can pass these on to the publishing company so they can send out your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered. Don't forget that if you fancy buying a copy of this book yourself, the publishing company are offering it at the discounted price of £12.00 including p&p. Please look at The Allotment Planner post for details.

I should also mention that I've seen the book advertised for sale on The Book People website for £4.99, though p&p is extra.

Congratulations once again to CJ who has won the giveaway.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Rent Rises

You may remember, back on the 16th of July post, me mentioning that we'd received a letter from the council advising us that they were reviewing allotment provision in Leeds. They had proposed three different options, basically wanting to increase the rent. The proposals they had made would mean that our rent would be rising from £37 each year for a full plot to over £100. Meetings were held and we've now been advised of the actual figures. There is a requirement to give us twelve months notice so the rent this year will rise by the marginal increase that we were notified of last year, however, next year, it will rise to £58, the year after £65 and the year after that £72. This is for a full sized plot of 250 square metres, smaller plots, such as mine, will be charged pro rata. This isn't as bad as I'd expected and I think it still represents good value for money. There's no water on our site, but there's a charge of £6 per year for plots on sites with water, and there's a £3 charge for allotment association membership.

I have a couple of moth orchids which are always in flower over Christmas. This year, the flowers have lasted and lasted and it isn't long ago that they finally faded and I cut down the flower spikes. There's no sign of another spike starting to grow yet on either plant so I think this will be the first year that I'm without my orchids over the festive period. Even if they start to grow now, I doubt there'll be time for the orchids to produce buds and then for the buds to open in time for Christmas. Never mind, something to look forward to next year.

We haven't had another frost since the start of the week, though it's still very cold. The sun is shining today, it's a beautiful, bright day, but there's still a nip in the air. I'm already willing spring to come and we haven't had winter yet.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Sunday the 10th of November 2013 to do so. Just leave a comment on The Allotment Planner post.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Straight As A Poker

I dug the first of my parsnips up at the weekend. They may not be huge but they're perfectly formed, in fact, they're the straightest parsnips I've ever grown. In previous years, most of my parsnips have been all shoulder and not much root, but you can't say that about these. I hope that the rest are just as good, and if left, grow a bit bigger. I wasn't expecting huge roots just yet, but couldn't resist pulling a few to have a taste. We'll be having them with our meal tonight.

My next door neighbour knocked on the door at the weekend with a bag of pears for us. He said his tree had only produced one single pear last year, but he's got a bumper crop this year and wondered if we'd like some. Yes please! There was just under four pounds in the bag, so a good amount for us to go at. I'm looking for recipes now, I quite fancy having a go at a pear cake and a pear tart.

We managed to get all the containers in the garden sorted out on Sunday. The tender plants were moved in to the greenhouse for a bit of protection over winter and the annuals were added to the compost bin. The fragile pots have been stored away safely. It was all done in the nick of time as we had our first frost of the year that night, winter is on the way.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Sunday the 10th of November 2013 to do so. Just leave a comment on The Allotment Planner post.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Bulb Planting

I bought my spring bulbs a little while ago and I finally got round to planting them in containers yesterday. I've gone for crocus - Advance, an unusual variety in that it's lilac on the outside and yellow on the inside, they should make for a pretty display, iris reticulata - Gordon, I love these tiny iris's, they're such pretty flowers, narcissus - Tete a Tete, a tiny, bright yellow daffodil which bears one to three flowers on each stem and daffodil - Professor Einstein, a flower with white petals and a vivid orange cup. I have to admit to preferring the traditional yellow daffodil but thought I'd go with something a little different this year. I also bought some allium - Spaerocephalon, but they're to join the allium - Purple Sensation which are already planted in the front garden. I'm also looking forward to seeing if last years bulbs, which I planted in the ground after they'd finished flowering in their containers, flower again. The garden will be very colourful in spring if they do.

I've ordered my potatoes for next year from the allotment shop. I've gone for Arran Pilot for the third year running as I've been really impressed with both the taste and yield from this variety. I grew a small quantity of Anya this year and was really impressed with them. Anya are a cross between Pink Fir Apple and Desiree so I thought I'd give Pink Fir Apple a go next year, as well as a larger quantity of Anya, so that I can compare the two. I ordered the Pink Fir Apple but unfortunately, the allotment shop doesn't order Anya in so I'll have to source those elsewhere.

Hubby completely cleared the greenhouse of all the old plants yesterday. Today's job is to move the more tender plants in there to give them a bit of protection over winter. There's a biting wind today, it's only a matter of time now until we get our first frost.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Allotment Planner

I was asked if I would like to review a new book which is about to be released, The Allotment Planner: More Than 200 Ways To Enjoy Your Plot Month By Month by Matthew Appleby, and I jumped at the chance.

I've had allotment planners in the past and was expecting something along the same lines, a book divided in to monthly sections with guidelines on what to sow when, and what you should be doing on your plot at a particular time. This book does have those features but so much more besides.

There is an introduction by Alys Fowler, and as she says, "Just don't - whatever you do - leave this book at home: it's one to sit in the allotment shed". I believe this is true, it's got a nice sturdy hardback cover and the attached elastic ensures that the book remains closed. Essentials if it's going to withstand being used on an allotment site.

Each monthly section gives details of what to sow and what to harvest as well as providing space to jot down any notes. There are also gardening quotes from famous people such as Frances Hodgson Burnett, Iggy Pop, Jane Austen and Thomas Jefferson to name but a few.

The thing which I love most about this book are the ideas to really get the most from your allotment and make it more than just a place to grow food. There's projects entitled Dinner On Your Plot, Aim High With Sunflowers, Create Your Own Buzz and Create A Haven For Birds as well as many more.

So many people take on an allotment only to give it up after a season or two because they find it too much work. Making the time spent on your allotment fun and enjoyable could really help with this issue.

There's some lovely photography in the book too which illustrates the projects very well.

This is a book I can see myself dipping in to quite a bit over winter while I'm waiting for the new gardening season to start. It should give me some good ideas for next year.

If you'd like to have a copy of this book yourself, the publishers, Aurum Publishing Group, are offering one as a giveaway prize. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post before twelve noon on Sunday the 10th of November 2013, after which, a name will be drawn at random. Please note that this giveaway is open to UK/EU only and that I will be passing on the winner's name and address details to the publishing company in order for them to send out your prize.

To order The Allotment Planner at the discounted price of £12.00 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG34. 

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to: 
Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, 
Littlehampton Book Services, 
PO Box 4264, 
Worthing, West Sussex 
BN13 3RB. 

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Vegetable Medley

I've been using up my tomatoes and peppers and anything else that's come home from the allotment with me, in vegetable medleys. In with the tomatoes and peppers, I've used courgette, squash, onion, shallot, potato and mushroom. The only thing that wasn't home grown was the mushroom. All I do is add a little oil to the roasting dish then chop up all the veggies and toss them in. If I'm using potatoes, I parboil them first before adding them. Then I add a little black pepper before giving everything a good stir in the oil. It takes about thirty to forty minutes to roast, with the occasional stir, and is absolutely delicious. It's so easy and makes a delicious meal in its own right or as an accompaniment to another dish. I've eaten it as a meal on its own, a side dish, stirred through pasta and on Sunday evening, I ate it with a couple of slices of toast which was delicious. I've made so many batches that my freezer is now jam packed, but its so easy to just tip it out and warm it up in the oven. I'll be having a taste of summer throughout winter.

I've decided which squash I will be growing next year. I called in to the allotment shed on Saturday morning and picked up a seed catalogue. The allotment asssociation have a seed scheme, so I get a discount if I order through them from Kings Seeds. I've chosen Autumn Crown which is the same shape as Crown Prince but has the colour and sweet taste of a butternut type squash. It was bred specifically for the UK climate, including the North of England, so I hope it does well. The second type I've chosen is Little Gem Rolet which is a smaller variety. It only grows to cricket ball size and has a dark green skin. This is supposed to be a heavy cropper and early to mature, so I'm hoping that this one does well for me too.

I hope that everyone came through the storm without any damage. We were very lucky here, the wind got up on Sunday but then died down again and we had some heavy rain from the early hours of yesterday morning until about lunch time, but that was it. I know not everyone was as fortunate, but I hope that any damage you did suffer was minimal.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Green Shield Bug

I found this little fellow on my Crimson Leaved peach tree. It's only during the last few years that I've become aware of the Green Shield Bug, though one variety is native to Britain and its occurence is widespread. There is also a non-native variety now in Britain which was found in London in 2003. It arrived from elsewhere in Europe. The native variety doesn't cause harm to plants, though the non-native ones can cause damage to some vegetable, especially beans, though it isn't yet established enough to be classed as a pest. They're sometimes called Stink Bugs as if they're threatened, some species emit a smelly liquid. Lovely!

I've finally got round to repotting the dwarf apple and plum trees which I bought last year. I've used plastic containers rather than terracotta ones as terracotta tends to dry out quicker. Plenty of crocks were placed in the bottom of the containers to help with drainage, as well as providing a bit of weight to help the pots stay upright in windy weather. I used John Innes No.3 compost, which doesn't dry out as quickly as multi purpose, though I did mix a little multi purpose in with it. I didn't get any fruit from the trees this year but I'm hoping that I might manage something next year.

The wind is starting to get up here, though the forecast isn't as bad as it is for some parts of the country over the next day or two. I hope everyone stays safe in the approaching storms.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Off Colour

I've finally harvested my squash. Not a huge harvest by any means, but more than I got last year. I grew Crown Prince which are the two at the back and Queensland Blue, the small one at the front. I'm not sure, but I don't think they've ripened, they don't seem to be the colour that I think they should be. I couldn't have left them on the plants in any case, I'm sure they'd be prone to rotting in the wet weather we're now experiencing. The question is, will they ripen off the plant? Next year, I'd like to get more plants in the ground to get a bigger harvest as squash is a vegetable which we all enjoy, and it's something which can be stored and eaten in the winter months. This year, I had two plants of each variety, but only one of each produced anything.

The green tomatoes which were taken from the plants and left on the conservatory windowsill have just about all ripened now. I've had a few which rotted, but the majority have come good. I've been able to supply my mum and dad with another good batch and I've got plenty left for myself. There's just a few still waiting to fully ripen, but then that will be the last of this year's tomatoes.

Today is the brightest it's been all week. We've had some really dull and dingy days this week with plenty of rain thrown in for good measure. I've heard that storms are heading this way next week so I think it's time to batten down the hatches.

Monday, 21 October 2013

They've Had Their Time

I picked all the remaining peppers off the plants yesterday. I figure they've had their time to ripen now, it's not often we're getting to see the sun, so it's highly unlikely that this lot will ripen outdoors. There were a couple of nice sized red ones but all these green ones will lie on the conservatory window sill in the hope that they'll ripen. I'm not sure if I can eat them green, I don't suppose they'll be as sweet if they're not red. I didn't bother with the smaller fruits, I just collected any which were a good size. My peppers have actually done really well this year. I started off with five plants of Corno di Torro Rosso but one broke, and from the four remaining plants I've had a steady supply of ripe peppers. The plants were started off in the greenhouse but eventually moved outdoors when the plants grew really large.

Another crop which has done really well are the cucumbers. I grew three varieties but Mini Munch is the one which has done the best. They've just about given up the ghost now, so they've also been cleared. I'm going to have a tuna and cucumber sandwich for lunch today and savour the taste of that very last cucumber of the season.

Hubby managed to get the grass cut yesterday, it had grown so long and I feared we wouldn't have chance to cut it again before winter sets in. It was a little wet still, but I'm really glad he managed to get it done as it's pouring down with rain again today. I'm sure that will be the last cut of the year.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Blog Of The Month - October

This year, I'm dedicating one post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is where I feature a blog I'm enjoying reading. Some blogs will be new to me, others may be blogs I've been reading for a while. I hope that by doing this, I can introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that some of you will already read the blogs I feature.

My Blog Of The Month for October is a little different to the ones I've featured previously as it's written by two people and covers a range of subjects. Jenny and Joe, a married couple who live in south-east Wales, write The Urban Cottage. They share their lives with four chickens, Lemon, Pepper, Fizzy and Frog and there are plenty of posts which are devoted to them.

The posts are always interesting whatever the subject, but I particularly like how each one is categorised so that if you're only interested in one aspect of the blog, you can easily bring up those particular posts by clicking on the categories in the sidebar, Crafts, Garden, Food, DIY and Chickens. There's also an About Us section if you're nosey like me and want to know more about them.

Jenny and Joe have lived in their house a little over a year, but they've devoted lots of time to the garden, which was overgrown, and are now reaping the rewards as they're harvesting their own veggies. They've also planted more fruit trees to grow alongside the plum, apple and pear trees that they inherited.

Do pop over and visit Jenny and Joe on their blog if you haven't already done so, it's such an interesting blog that you won't be disappointed. Don't forget to tell them that I sent you.

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Bumper Crop

I emptied out the last of my potato containers yesterday and this is what I found, seven pounds of lovely Arran Pilots. These were grown from three tubers, the container they were planted in is quite large, I only usually put one or two tubers in the containers, depending on its size. These are a first early variety, but they're quite happy to be left in the container until needed, and as you can see, they do put on some growth, and I've discovered that they're lovely chpped and deep fried. Naughty but nice.

Unfortunately, I don't think my Christmas potato experiment is going to work this year. I planted some tubers in containers hoping that they'd get a good start while the weather was still warm. I had intended to move them in to the greenhouse at a later date to give them some protection, and then harvest them in time for Christmas dinner. They got to the point where the foliage was just starting to poke through the compost but nothing's happened since. I think they may have started rotting, and if nothing else happens by the weekend, I think I'd better have a little feel around and see what I find. It's a shame, but I've had mixed results in the past trying to grow potatoes for Christmas.

I'm pleased to see my little Robin Redbreast back in the garden. Robins are here all year round but its quite rare that I see him in the garden during the summer months. In winter, he's here all the time. Not today though, all the birds are taking cover from the rain and I don't blame them one bit, it's pouring down.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Final Harvest

Having heard the weather forecast for this week, colder temperatures and little sunshine, I decided to clear the tomato plants. As you can see, there was quite a lot of fruit still left to harvest in various stages of ripeness. They've been put in trays on the windowsill in the conservatory where they can make the most of any sunshine we get. They don't usually take long to ripen this way. The outdoor plants have now been removed but I haven't got round to sorting out the plants in the greenhouse yet, that's a job at the top of my to do list. My San Marzanos have been quite disappointing, very slow to ripen and not a huge harvest from them, so I'm going to give them a miss next year. The rest of the varieties have done really well, it's been my best tomato year yet.

I'm still getting harvests from the allotment, beans, courgettes and there's the squash to bring home the next time I'm there. The Queensland Blue have been disappointing, they've produced a couple of fruit but too late in the season to reach maturity. There should be a couple of Crown Prince from one plant, though one of them is rather small. The other Crown Prince plant hasn't produced anything at all. Next year, I'd like to get lots more squash plants in as they're a vegetable we all enjoy, and they'll store over winter too.

The weather forecasters were right about the temperatures dropping, it's definitely on the chilly side now. One thing I hate about autumn is the number of spiders taking cover inside the house. I'm really not very good with spiders at all, and the huge one which decided to run around the kitchen floor yesterday morning scared me half to death. Mind you, so did the one which climbed the room curtains a couple of days earlier. I've read about leaving conkers around the house, it's supposed to deter spiders, I really must give it a go.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Salvia For October

This year, I'm taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visiting a nursery each month with a view to buying a plant which is in flower for my garden. Doing this should ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

When I visited the garden centre this weekend, there were lots of plants flowering, but when I looked at the information supplied with each plant, I discovered that many of them were blooming out of season and their usual flowering time was as early as spring to early summer. I had to look quite hard to find something that was and should be flowering now. I came away with this lovely salvia nemorosa Ostfriesland. It was the beautiful colour which caught my eye, such an intense violet blue.

Again, I've gone for a plant which is attractive to wildlife, both bees and butterflies are attracted to it, so it should help the bees at a time when lots of plants are winding down.

It is clump forming and has a compact, bushy habit. It's a perennial and is hardy so it should go on providing some much needed late colour in my garden.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Trimmed And Tidied

The sweetcorn which I showed in my last post looked so much nicer once they'd been trimmed and tidied, in fact, they don't look half bad. It just goes to show how things can be spruced up. As I said in my last post, they've been blanched and frozen for future use, though I doubt they'll last very long, there aren't many of them. Sweetcorn is one veg I will persevere with as home grown tastes so much nicer than shop bought. This is because the sugar in the cobs start to turn to starch as soon as they're harvested, so the sooner they're cooked after harvesting, the better. I like to eat my corn on the cob but the kernels can be removed and eaten that way too.

I'm really pleased to see my crocosmia flowering. I've had the plant for a number of years, and although the leaves have looked really healthy, it's never flowered before. I'm not sure of the variety, I know some can become a bit of a thug, so I hope it's going to behave itself.

We've had some miserable weather over the last few days, torrential rain on Wednesday, dull and damp yesterday, and so far today it's grey and drizzling. I'm hoping that we're going to get some nicer weather over the weekend as I want to get the garden sorted out. I think it's about time I pulled out the tomato plants, they're looking well past their best now, and the green tomatoes which are left can be ripened indoors. They've definitely done their job for me this year.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Best Yet

Sweetcorn has been a huge disappointment ever since I've had the allotment. I used to grow it in containers in the garden and the cobs were always well pollinated and full to the tips with kernels. I haven't managed to grow anything nearly as good on the plot, in fact this year is the best yet, though it still isn't as good as anything I grew in a container. This year I've grown Early Extra Sweet. Popped straight in to a pan of boiling water and served with a dollop of butter, it was delicious. I've blanched and frozen most of the cobs for future use.

You can see the first harvest of my Blue Lake climbing French beans in the photo as well as my final carrot harvest. My beans had a bad start this year, not many of them wanted to germinate, so I had to make later sowings. I was unsure if I'd manage to harvest anything from these before the colder weather arrived, but now that they've started producing, I can see that there's plenty more on the way. It's a race against time. These carrots were from a later sowing than the ones I harvested previously and haven't grown half as big. I've managed to get something from them though, so I've blanched and frozen them for use in a slow cooker casserole I'll make at a later date.

The goldfinches have found my window feeder and are more than happy to spend long periods of time feeding from it. It's lovely to see them up close, though I never seem to have my camera handy when they arrive and any movement scares them away. I shall try my best to get a photo to share.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Comparing The Potatoes

The main potato variety I chose to grow this year was Arran Pilot. I grew them last year and was so pleased with them that I decided I'd grow them again this year. Seen in the bottom right of the photo, they haven't disappointed. They cost me £2.25 for half a stone from the allotment shop, which is a little over the 3kg nets which you can buy in garden centres. They've given a very good yield again keeping us and my mum and dad supplied with potatoes over the summer months. I like to try new varieties so I picked up a small bag of Roosters from the garden centre. This is a red skinned variety and very versatile. They're shown in the top left corner of the photo. They didn't do as well as the Arran Pilots, though Roosters are a main crop variety so probably not as happy growing in a container as a first or second early variety. Another new to me variety I grew this year was Anya. Unfortunately, they gave a very small yield, but the flavour more than made up for it. They're in the bottom left corner and as you can see, they're a bit of a knobbly potato. They're a cross between Pink Fir Apple and Desiree. They've got a waxy texture and a slightly nutty flavour, and even though the yield was poor, I enjoyed them so much that I'm considering giving them another go next year, though I haven't quite decided yet whether to grow these again or give Pink Fir Apple a go. The last potatoes I tried this year were Desiree, seen in the top right corner. This was the only variety I grew in the allotment as I've found it a waste of time because they come out so badly damaged by slugs. I was hoping that these Desiree may have some slug resistance but they too had been gorged on. The photo shows the amount I managed to harvest from two tubers after the damaged ones had been removed. My records show that last year, I harvested potatoes from the last container exactly a year ago today. This year, I've still got four containers left to empty out, though I did plant more up than last year. It's been nice to share my bounty with my mum and dad.

I've planted two containers up with some of the Arran Pilot potatoes I harvested, hoping that I can grow some potatoes for Christmas. I've tried this experiment a few times previously with mixed results, so I'm hoping that this year is a good one and I manage to have some home grown potatoes on my Christmas dinner plate. The foliage is just starting to show through the compost so it shouldn't be long until I earth them up.

I've had some really good harvests this year and I'm using some of them up by making a roast vegetable dish and freezing it. The mix consists of tomato, courgette, potato, pepper, shallot, onion and mushroom, obviously the mushroom isn't home grown but everything else is. I'm sprinkling with black pepper before roasting and then freezing in individual portions. The potatoes are boiled and crushed before adding to the mix, and this makes it a substantial dish in itself. I enjoy it with some crusty bread. It'll be a lovely treat to have all these home grown veg when winter arrives.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Dianthus For September

This year, I'm taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visiting a nursery each month with a view to buying a plant which is in flower for my garden. Doing this should ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

It's actually hard to find plants in garden centres at this time of year, Christmas stock seems to take over and somewhere which is supposed to be the place to buy plants is full to the rafters with tinsel and baubles. I would have liked to have visited a nursery but I just didn't have time, so I put on my blinkers so as not to be dazzled by the fairy lights and navigated my way through the extensive Christmas displays to the small, in comparison, plant section.

There actually wasn't very many plants to choose from which are flowering at this time of year. There were some summer plants which were past their best, but in the end I decided to go for this Dianthus Sunflor Charmy. The information label states that it flowers from early spring through to late summer, so as well giving some colour in September, it should be a good plant right the way through the year.

I've enjoyed growing dianthus in the past, I remember them from my mum and dad's garden as a child, and as I don't have any in my garden at the moment, I think this is a good choice for my September plant.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Blog Of The Month - September

This year, I'm dedicating one post each month to Blog Of The Month. This is where I feature a blog I'm enjoying reading. Some blogs will be new to me, others may be blogs I've been reading for a while. I hope that by doing this, I can introduce some of my readers to other, interesting blogs, though I know that some of you will already read the blogs I feature.

I've been reading the Blog Of The Month which I've chosen for September for quite some time. Living On The Edge is written by Su who lives and gardens on the edge of a small market town in Suffolk. Su comes up with some really interesting subjects for her posts, such as her latest one about Lunar Planting, something I'd love to have a go at some time in the future.

Su has a long, narrow garden, and she's managed to create lots of different spaces within it, seating areas, a pond, a patio, so many interesting and delightful features such as the naturally formed rose arch and the bench underneath the paper bark cherry tree. You must go and have a read of her blog and discover it all for yourself.

Su's love of plants shines through in her writing, especially her love of roses, she's got some beauties in her garden.

Su also writes about places she visits as well as her other love, textile art. All interesting stuff. Su's feline helpers also crop up on her blog from time to time.

Please do hop over and have a read of Su's wonderful blog if you haven't yet discovered it, I'm sure you'll agree that it's worthy of my Blog Of The Month award, and don't forget to tell her that I sent you.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Cry Cry Again

I've had another bad year with my onions. Last year, I had a go at growing from seed, but they didn't like the wet weather and hardly grew. This year, I decided to hedge my bets, I wanted to have a go at growing from seed again, but I also decided to put some sets in. You can see the largest set grown ones in the middle tray along with ones on the left which are typical of the size that most of them have grown to. These are the variety Setton. On the right you can see the Bedfordshire Champion onions I grew from seed. They've done even worse than the sets. I'll still be able to use them, but they won't go far. The red onions - Red Baron didn't do anything at all. I think the problem this year was that I was late planting them out owing to the cold start to the year. I'd started them off in cells in the cold greenhouse but delayed planting them out when the ground was cold and wet which held them back. I think I'll give up on seeds now. I shall plant sets again next year and hope that I don't have three rubbish years in a row.

My squash plants haven't done very well again this year either. There's some small fruit on the Queensland Blue but they're not going to reach maturity and only one fruit on the Crown Prince. The Sunburst patty pan hasn't produced much either. Another thing I'm going to have to try harder with next year.

We had a bit of a lull with birds visiting the garden but they all seem to be coming back again. I have a feeder which attaches with suction cups to the window and I have a cheeky collared dove which comes and eats all the seed out of it. He's quite a heavy bird, you can hear a thud as he lands. The coal tits like the window feeder too, and I've also had a baby goldfinch on this particular feeder. It's great to see the birds feeding up close.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Comparing The Tomatoes

It's been a great year for tomatoes here. I decided this year that as well as growing some plants in the greenhouse, I'd also grow some outdoors and I'm so pleased that I did because it's the outdoor tomatoes which have done the best. The large tomatoes on the left hand side are Ferline. They've done quite well producing an average crop of large tomatoes. Next to the Ferline are Gardeners Delight. This is a cherry tomato with a great taste and it's so reliable that I grow it every year. The beef tomato, centre top, is Costoluto Fiorentino. I've had a great harvest from these plants and the tomatoes themselves are delicious. The orange tomato is a favourite of mine, Tangella. I only grew plants of this variety in the greenhouse and they haven't performed as well as they have in other years. The plum tomatoes, centre bottom, are San Marzano. I've only had a few of this variety ripen so far, but there's some huge ones on the plants which are now starting to ripen. The tomatoes on the right hand side are Totem, a bush variety. These have been real stars this year producing a huge crop, the plants have literally been dripping with fruit. Most of the tomatoes are a little larger than cherry sized, and they taste good. I shall definitely grow them again next year. The outdoor tomatoes were planted in grow bags which had been cut in half and turned on their ends. They worked really well and I'll use this method again next year. I don't know why, but the plants in the greenhouse have really under performed this year. They were started off exactly the same as the outdoor plants and were identical when they were put in their final positions. The outdoor plants really took off at this point, whereas the plants in the greenhouse grew rather spindly and didn't produce much fruit. I haven't had this problem in previous years so I'm wondering if it's down to the compost I used.

My runner beans are now coming to a halt. They've given an average harvest this year, but I wasn't expecting great things from them as all my beans were very slow to get going. I had problems with germination of all my beans and had to resow. The Blue Lake French beans, which are usually so reliable, are only just starting to produce beans now. I fear it will be too late to actually harvest anything from them. I put the germination problems down to the cold start to the year.

I've been holding on to summer for as long as possible, but there's no denying that autumn is definitely here now. We've had dull, blustery conditions here over the weekend, and although it's brightened up today, it's still windy. The forecast throughout the day is sunny, cloudy, light rain showers, heavy rain and back to cloud. Autumn conditions or hedging their bets?

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bargain Seed Giveaway Winners

Thank you for all the comments on my giveaway post.

Without further ado, I shall announce that the first two names drawn out of the hat were Sue from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments and Snowbird from Gardens & Wildlife. Please let me have your addresses and I'll get the packets of seed off to you.

Cucumber seed can be really expensive so a top tip is to look for seeds in the sales, there's lots on at this time of year.

I hope you both enjoy growing these, I shall be growing them again next year so it'll be interesting to compare notes.

Thank you, once again, to everyone who entered the giveaway.

Have a lovely weekend.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Corno di Torro Rosso

My peppers are doing well this year. I'm growing Corno di Torro Rosso, and although I started off with five plants, I'm now down to four. One of them became so top heavy that it completely snapped in half. The four plants I'm left with have done really well. There's about ten good sized peppers on one plant, eight on another two, and six on the other. This is the only one which has ripened so far, but the rest are starting to change colour now. Although they've done well this year, the plants are so big and take up so much space that I don't think I'll bother growing them next year.

I'm still harvesting carrots which have been grown in the old bath on the allotment, they've done so well this year and have provided a good few meals. Carrots aren't badly priced in the supermarket, but the taste of home grown is far superior, the carrotty smell just wafts through the air as you pull them up, no wonder they're so attractive to the Carrot Root Fly.

We had visitors at the allotment yesterday, four cute little kittens. We saw one walking along the fence and before we knew it, three brothers and sisters had joined it. They jumped down and were having lots of fun chasing each other around. We don't seem to have any problem with mice, but that's probably because there's so many other cats around, I just hope they leave the birds alone.

If you haven't already entered my giveaway, don't forget to do so. You have until Thursday the 12th of September 2013 to leave a comment on my Bargain Seed Giveaway post.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Juicy And Meaty

I don't often grow beef tomatoes, but I'd bought the seeds of Costoluto Fiorentino as part of a multi pack when I was looking for some San Marzano seeds, so I thought I'd give them a go. I'm so pleased I did as they're such a tasty tomato. They're so juicy that it was like biting in to a very ripe peach, though the flesh is quite firm and doesn't have many seeds. It's a very meaty tomato. It was only after buying the seeds that I read it's an Italian heirloom variety and has been given the RHS Award of Garden Merit. You can see that it's a good size too. It's a tomato I'd definitely recommend.

There's a plot on our allotment site which hasn't been touched since we took on our plot at the start of the gardening season in 2009. Someone had, apparently, been paying rent on it until the beginning of this year, but had finally decided to give it up. It's such a shame that it's been allowed to get in to the state it has, it's absolutely covered in brambles and it will take such a lot of hard work to get it back in to shape. It will be a daunting task for anyone who takes it on, and will probably put people off from wanting the plot. Amongst all the brambles and weeds, there's some mature apple trees, both red and green, and they're fruiting profusely. I don't like to just help myself, but it's a shame that all the fruit will just go to waste.

I'm not ready for autumn yet, I'm definitely a summer girl, but there's no denying that it's on its way. The mornings are noticeably darker when I get out of bed, and the nights are starting to draw in. It's raining hard today and it hasn't really got light yet, though I'm sure the ground will be thankful of a downpour, everywhere is parched. It looks like I'm definitely going to have to let go of summer and embrace autumn.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


UFO in this instance is an Unidentified Fruity Object. If you look at the squash in the photo, you'll see that they look nothing alike, though they've actually both been grown as patty pans - Sunburst and the seeds came from the same packet. They should look like the squash on the left of the photo. I wonder if a different seed has been included in the packet or if cross pollination has occured, either as it's been growing as I'm growing other squash and courgettes in the same bed, or before the seed was harvested. Sue from Our Plot At Green Lane Allotments wrote about her courgettes undergoing transformations recently on her Are Courgettes Promiscuous? post. I've never had anything like this happen before. I didn't get to eat the mutated squash as it was full of seeds, but I wonder if it would have tasted like a patty pan. I shall be interested to see what further fruit the plant produces, whether future fruit will look as it should, or not. I'll keep you posted.

I'm intending to have a go at growing some potatoes for Christmas again this year, in fact, I really need to get them planted up in the near future. I'm going to use some of the Arran Pilot potatoes which I've grown as first earlies this year and just replant them in new compost. If I get them planted now, there should be some decent enough weather to get them started off before the containers have to be moved in to the cold greenhouse and covered in fleece when the bad weather arrives. I've tried this experiment on a couple of previous occasions with mixed success, so I hope they do well this time as it makes Christmas dinner a little special having home grown veg on the plate.

I have a bird feeding station in the front garden, it's positioned in a flower bed which is a little inconvenient at times as birds are such messy eaters and seed is often dropped. I have to hoe the area regularly to stop the dropped seed from germinating, but I happened to notice that a sunflower had sprung up. I decided to leave it, even though it looks a bit out of place where it's situated. I'm glad I did now as it's blooming away. It's not a huge sunflower, probably three feet in height, and it's not growing in the most convenient or pleasing place, but it's flowering it's socks off and making me happy.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Bargain Seed Giveaway

It's that time of year again when The Garden Centre Group reduce all their seeds to 50p per packet. Never one to miss a bargain, I popped in to our local branch in York to pick up a few packs.

I was quite sensible this year and went through the seeds I've already got before I visited the store, so I only bought seeds which I really needed. Other years, I've come home with seeds I thought I needed only to find I'd doubled up in some cases.

I ended up buying fifteen packs of seed for £7.50. I've tried to work out how much I've saved but two of the packs aren't priced so the nearest I can say is that thirteen of the packs should have cost £41.99. On top of the fifteen packs, I also got three packs free. They were offers for buying two or three packs of the same brands.

I was really pleased to pick up some Mini Munch cucumber seeds. I find cucumber seed really expensive, these packs should have been £3.99 per pack and each pack only contains four seeds. I mentioned these cucumbers in a previous post, I've been really impressed with them, they're so tasty and produce high yields. They're a variety which produce mini fruit. I had a few commenters expressing an interest when I posted about them, so I picked up a couple of extra packs of seeds which I'll giveaway. You can see them right at the front of the above photo. I should just mention that even though the seeds have been reduced, they're not out of date. The expiry dates on these packs of cucumber seed is 2016.

If you're interested in receiving one of the packs of Mini Munch cucumber seeds, just leave a comment on this post saying so and I'll draw two names at random. The giveaway will stay open until twelve noon on Thursday the 12th of September 2013 and I'll announce the winners soon after.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Liriope For August

This year, I'm taking the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visiting a nursery each month with a view to buying a plant which is in flower for my garden. Doing this should ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

At this time of year, some plants are starting to wind down, so I was on the lookout for something which is only just beginning to flower and which will continue to bloom well in to autumn. I think I've found that in this Liriope - Royal Purple. It starts flowering around this time of year and should go on now until November. Another thing in it's favour is that it's suitable for most garden aspects providing it's given reasonable shelter from cold winds.

The plants form compact clumps, so I'm hoping it will settle in to its new position and increase both foliage and flowers. It will be interesting to see how much growth it's put on by this time next year.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Not Shallot To Show For It

My shallots haven't done so well this year. They're the variety Sante and although the sets have divided, each individual shallot is exceptionally small. They got off to a great start in their pots in the cold greenhouse, but they languished so long because of the cold start to the year that it wasn't until the 19th of May that they were eventually planted out. I could see that they were already starting to divide by this time, so I think this may be the cause. They're still edible though, but they won't last very long. I haven't harvested the onions yet but I already know that the red onions are a complete failure. They failed to grow at all and have already been disposed of. I always find red onions much harder to grow than others.

My blueberries have done so much better this year than the last couple of years. The bushes didn't seem to have many flowers at the start of the season so I wasn't expecting much from them, but the first bush has produced a worthwhile harvest and I've just harvested a first batch from the second bush. The third one doesn't seem to have many, if any, fruits on it at all, though it is still a young plant.

I sowed another batch of beetroot and spring onions a couple of weeks ago and they've all germinated. I may be far too late with the beetroot, but if the good weather lasts well in to autumn I may just be lucky. I'll be happy with some small ones. It's worth a gamble. The spring onions will be fine over winter if they're not ready to harvest this year, it will give them a head start so there's nothing lost there. I find it always pays to give it a go.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Taste Test

I haven't been particularly successful with cucumbers in the past, so this year I thought I would hedge my bets and grow three different varieties. The first variety I chose was Crystal Lemon, these are the ones in the photo. They don't really look like cucumbers being round and yellow, more lemon like, which I suppose is how they got their name. I've grown these in the past and I wasn't over keen on them but I decided to give them another go. The verdict on these is that I won't grow them again. They're full of seeds and I don't like the flavour. I should say here that everyone's taste differs though, my dad is really enjoying them. My second choice was Fanfare, a variety which is happy to be grown in a container. I've grown this plant outdoors and it's produced plenty of tasty fruit. Not quite as large a cucumber as some, but not bite sized either. I'd consider this as one to grow in the future. My pick of the crop is Mini Munch. As the name suggests, it's a snack sized cucumber and crops heavily. It's thin skinned and tastes delicious. I've grown this plant in the greenhouse but I'd like to give it a go outdoors to see how it does, and it's one I'll definitely grow again. There's only me in our house who eats cucumber, though I'm supplying my mum and dad with their's too, so I don't need to grow a huge amount. A couple of Mini Munch plants will be more than enough next year.

I'm getting a regular supply of tomatoes ripening now, though a couple of varieties are being a bit stubborn and refusing to turn red. The outdoor plants have done far better than the ones in the greenhouse in all respects. I shall do a more detailed post on this year's tomato crop in due course.

We've got some nice weather here just in time for today's bank holiday, though I don't think the rest of the week is now forecast to be as nice as they thought it was going to be. Hubby's got the week off work so I'm hoping it stays fine so that we can have some days out. Whatever you're up to, I hope you enjoy the bank holiday.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Tray Bien

It's always nice to hear that someone enjoys reading my blog, so I was thrilled to be contacted by a member of the dotcomgiftshop team to let me know that The Good Life had been selected as one of their 20 Gorgeous Gardening Blogs.

I was also invited to become a member of their blog network which involves reviewing items they sell on the website. Dotcomgiftshop sells all manner of gifts and things for the home, but as you know, I like to keep this blog devoted to gardening and therefore, it was the gardening section I looked at when making my choice of item to review.

There's four different categories in the garden section, accessories, gifts, decorations and party, with quite a selection of items in each. In the end, I plumped for this Vegetables Wooden Produce Tray, but there were many other items which caught my eye, so I'm sure I'll be back to purchase some of those in the future.

I was impressed by the delivery timescale. I emailed the team on the Wednesday afternoon to advise them of my choice and the item was delivered on the Saturday morning. It was well packaged, so arrived in perfect condition.

The tray itself is made from wood and seems very sturdy. I thought it would be ideal to carry my harvests home in from the allotment.

There's cut out handles on each side of the tray which will ensure it isn't dropped whilst being carried.

Those pesky beetroot and courgettes, which seem to roll about all over the place, will be kept under control with the lovely deep sides.

Here it is in use, carrying and displaying the latest harvest. The beans, St George runners and Cobra French, are starting to produce more now, and I've dug up the first lot of Anya potatoes. I'll mention them in more detail in a future post. You can see what I did with the blueberries over on my Through The Keyhole blog.

I will definitely get plenty of use out of this tray. It's ideal for use in the garden, especially if you grow your own veggies.

If you're ever stuck what to buy someone for a present, you should definitely check out dotcomgiftshop, there's gifts for every occasion and lots more besides, do take a look.

I should just mention that the item was sent to me free of charge, but I have not been paid for writing this review.

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