Thursday, 30 January 2014

Rabbit Ramblings

I sometimes mention our rabbits on the blog and I get quite a few requests to tell more about them. I have done posts about them before, Introducing Sammy and Coming...Ready Or Not.

We hadn't intended to get rabbits, we'd had hamsters and guinea pigs for a few years but found ourselves with only fish as pets after they'd all died. Back in 2008, on a visit to a local pet shop for fish supplies, we saw the cutest little baby Rex rabbits. There were about four little brown ones and the softest, cuddliest little grey one, all brothers. I'd just come back from a weekend trip to London with work and feeling guilty at having left Daniel and Eleanor at home with Mick, my defenses were down. It didn't take much of Eleanor's nagging for me to crumble and allow her to choose one of the litter to come home with us. Her choice was the little grey rabbit which she named Sammy.

It was the following day that Daniel decided that he'd quite like a rabbit too, so back to the pet shop we went and one of the little brown bunnies came to join Sammy. Daniel named his rabbit Monty.

Originally, we'd hoped that they'd live in a hutch together, and they did whilst they were babies. We had them neutered thinking it would calm them down and that they'd live in harmony, but it just didn't work, they really didn't get on together so they now live in separate hutches and have separate play time.

Sammy is the softest of the two, he likes to be held and cuddled and doesn't hop too far away from his hutch when it's play time, but Monty is the most nosey, inquisitive rabbit you're ever likely to meet. He's such a character and makes me laugh how he gets his nose in to everything.

When I eventually stopped working, we got the dog which Eleanor was still nagging for. Archie goes to see the rabbits when they're in their hutches or their runs and they sniff each other through the bars, the rabbits don't seem to be nervous of him at all. I always keep him indoors when they're having a run around though, you just never know.

My very favourite photo of Monty is this one which I used on my Coming...Ready Or Not post back in 2009. I think he looks so cute.

Last year, when I was choosing my seeds in The Garden Centre Group sale, I came across this seed mixture for rabbits. On the back it says A mixture of seeds for sowing as living pet food which has been specially formulated to supplement the diet and suit the natural and nutritional needs of rabbits. The seeds can be sown in containers or in the ground and the rabbit can eat the plants directly or they can be harvested, washed and dried before being given to eat. I thought I might sow a couple of small trays and then once they've grown, they can be given to Sammy and Monty as a treat.

Sammy and Monty are six now. There's no way of knowing really how long they'll be with us. Some information I've read states that the average age of rabbits is between six and eight, other information states eight to ten, yet I've heard of rabbits living for twelve years and beyond. The vet always says they're in very good health when they go for their annual vaccinations and health check so I can't see any reason why we shouldn't have them for another six years.

Monday, 27 January 2014


I've mentioned before that there's quite a bit of soft fruit on the new plot we've taken on. It's something we haven't grown much of before so I'm going to have to learn how to look after everything properly.

There's lots of raspberry canes. Thankfully, the label has been left on one variety.

I know that Glen Ample is a summer fruiting raspberry so it will bear fruit on last year's growth. How I know which is last year's growth though is another matter.

There's no sign on these raspberries so I don't know if they're summer fruiting or autumn fruiting. Each are treated differently when it comes to pruning.

I do know that there were some berries left on them when we took on the allotment in October, so perhaps that would indicate that they're autumn fruiting. The berries were yellow, something a bit different from the usual red.

There's a blackberry. This also has the label left on it but it doesn't give its name.

This is a gooseberry bush, lots of mean looking thorns. I've also got a red thornless gooseberry which has yet to be planted at the plot.

There's about six currant bushes along this hedge, I don't know if you can see them properly in this photo.

I don't know whether they're black, white or red currants. I wonder if there's a way to find out before the fruit is produced. I've got a black currant bush at home which is destined for the plot.

I don't know what this bush is but it's very big. Time will tell.

Here's the strawberry patch. I'll wait and see how productive it is this year before making a decision on whether it stays or goes. Strawberry plants only last about three years before the yield is reduced.

There looks to be plenty of rhubarb. It's just starting to grow again now.

I don't know what variety it is but I've got a Stockbridge Arrow crown at home which is waiting to be planted out at the allotment.

I think we've been extremely fortunate to be offered a plot with so much fruit on it. It all looks to have been looked after so well too, all the canes are tied in to supports. I've also got a tayberry to plant, I think it's going to be a very fruity year.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Veg Journal Giveaway Winner

The giveaway for Charles Dowding's Veg Journal ended at noon today and I'm pleased to announce that the name drawn at random from the hat is Linda Penney from Linda's Wildlife Garden. Congratulations, Linda. 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.

It was very interesting to read all the comments I got on my last post about composting. It seems that we all compost different things and some of us are more cautious than others about what we put in our bins. As you can see from the Index, Charles Dowding covers composting in a lot of detail in his veg journal so I will be reading up on it, but I know I need to start including things which I don't already in my compost otherwise I'll be making numerous trips to the tip.

He also covers composting in nearly all of the monthly Jobs For The Month sections, advising how to use the compost, where to spead it and which plants will benefit from it.

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. Don't forget that if you fancy buying a copy of this book, the publishing company are offering it at the discounted price of £12.00 including p&p. Please look at my Charles Dowding's Veg Journal post for details.

Congratulations once again to Linda who has won the giveaway.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Heart Of The Allotment

We didn't get to the allotment this weekend, but Mick spent lots of time there the weekend before, clearing out the compost bins. The heart of any allotment is good compost so this was a job we wanted to get done as soon as possible.

We've inherited two bins with our new plot, both made out of pallets and quite roomy. Unfortunately, one of them was filled with lots of rubbish, so we wanted to get it all sorted out before the new growing season starts. Mick filled lots of rubbish bags and made numerous trips to the tip. Our local tip has closed down so we've got a fair old trek to dump anything now, but at least all the rubbish has now been cleared.

The second bin was filled to the brim with good quality compost, so that's now been half emptied and the contents spread on one of the beds. The remaining compost will be used in due course and then we'll be able to perform some maintenance on the bins themselves.

I'm always very cautious when it comes to putting anything in the compost bin, over cautious actually. I don't like to put weeds in there in case there's seeds and they end up spreading all over the plot and I don't like to compost potato or tomato foliage in case there's any blight spores. I wonder if anyone else is as cautious as I am. I think I'm going to have to throw caution to the wind though and start composting at least some of these things, I don't want to have to be making lots of unnecessary trips to the tip.

Whilst Mick was clearing out the compost bins, he also had a bit of a clear out in the shed. The previous owners have left lots of things in there, some useful, some not so useful, so that's also had a bit of a tidy up.

Eleanor has decided that she's going to give the shed a lick of paint when the warmer weather arrives. She hasn't had any interest in the allotment at all for the last few years, but I think a bit of painting appeals to her artistic side. I hope she keeps her promise.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Friday the 24th of January 2014 to do so. Just leave a comment on my Charles Dowding's Veg Journal post.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Charles Dowding's Veg Journal

I was asked if I'd like to review Charles Dowding's Veg Journal which has recently been published by Frances Lincoln ( , @Frances_Lincoln). I was especially interested in hearing more about the no-dig advice contained in this book, so I was happy to go ahead.

The book has a sturdy hardback cover and would stand up to being used for reference on an allotment plot or outside in the veg patch.

The introduction explains that gardening feels more fulfilling when jobs are spread throughout the year. With this in mind, the book's aim is to travel through a year of vegetable growing, covering the most important seasonal tasks and explaining some jobs which keep cropping up.

Charles Dowding has a no-dig approach to gardening and he explains in the book why he gardens this way and how no-dig works. There's also a section on creating no-dig beds.

Photos demonstrate the difference in soil when it hasn't been dug.

The book is set out month by month, as I expected it would be. Each monthly section contains space to write notes as well as giving a list of jobs for the month.

Further information is given on some of the jobs mentioned, such as composting, harvesting and weeding. I shall find the section on common annual weeds very helpful as I'm always stumped when it comes to weeds, what they're called and how they grow.

I think this book would be excellent for beginners as the How To Grow pages give clear information on where and when to sow, time from sowing to planting, when to plant and spacing and care. There's also lots of tips which will be very useful to a novice. All the most common vegetables are covered, and many more besides.

There's many other topics covered in the book. One which every gardener needs to know is Tackling Pests and Diseases. We never get a season without some pest damage to our crops.

The Seed Saving Tips are something I'm interested in. I don't save much seed myself but it's something I'm keen to improve on.

I haven't read the book from cover to cover but from what I have read, I would say that this book is aimed more at the beginner, though there are certainly some topics which will be useful to the more experienced gardener.

As you can see, each topic is illustrated beautifully, there's some really lovely photos in the book.

If you fancy this book yourself, the publishers are offering a copy as a giveaway prize. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post before twelve noon on Friday the 24th of January 2014, 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 Charles Dowding's Veg Journal at the discounted price of £12.00 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG69. 

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

Please quote the offer code APG69 and include your name and address details. 

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Garden Visiting In January

I don't often visit gardens, Daniel and Eleanor were never keen to traipse around looking at flowers so it's something we've rarely done. Now that Mick and I have time to do things on our own, I've decided that I'm going to try and visit a garden each month this year.

Whilst looking on the internet for somewhere to visit in January, I came across Wentworth Garden Centre. It's set in sixteen acres of walled and landscaped gardens, built in the 18th century by the Fitzwilliams of Wentworth Woodhouse.

The gardens are now being restored by the garden centre, and after our visit there yesterday, I have to say that they're doing a fantastic job.

We haven't had many frosts this year, but I would say that yesterday was our frostiest day of the year. It hung around all day.

The garden centre charge £1.50 per adult admission to the historic gardens and as you walk through the gate, the first thing to greet you is the maze. The replanting of the maze is one of the recent projects to be completed after it was grubbed out shortly after the Second World War.

We weren't very successful in getting round the maze, we ended up exiting the same way we went in. I should think that this would be a firm favourite with children.

The creation of a deer paddock is another project which has recently been undertaken. I should imagine that children would enjoy this area of the garden too.

As we walked further round, we came to a place where you could stand right next to the fence and one or two of the deer were very inquisitive and came to see us. One even waited for her nose to be stroked.

Some of the walls in the garden are hot walls and once contained heated flues. Fruit such as pineapples, peaches and apricots were grown in glasshouses which were erected next to these heated walls.

There's different areas to the garden, all with a different feel to them.

I didn't know what this was until I read up on it. It's a bear pit and the chamber has contained bears within living memory.

There's stairs to climb inside the pit and then you exit in an elevated part of the garden.

I also had to look up what these openings were. Any Ideas?

Here's a closer look. They're actually duck houses which date back to the Victorian period. They housed ornamental varieties including Pintail, Widgeon, Teal and Black Swans.

There's a few odd looking statues dotted about the garden.

I like this one though, sheltering under a tree at the end of a rill.

Wildlife habitats and feeding stations were evident throughout the gardens. Log piles had been left and plenty of bird houses and seed and nut holders were scattered about. They're obviously paying off as there was beautiful birdsong to accompany us on our walk.

We saw three squirrels chasing each other along the ground until they climbed a tree, swirling and twirling as they went. I was too slow with my camera to catch them in the act.

It was a lovely place for a visit and we'll definitely return later in the year to see the gardens again in a different season. I can tell that spring will bring plenty of colour, there were already lots of bulbs beginning to show themselves.

After visiting the gardens, we headed for the garden centre. There's plenty to see here too and it was very busy. In the grounds are a restaurant, a deli, an ice cream parlour and a farm shop. There's craft units in the courtyard and even an adventure playground, among other things.

There was a farmer's market in the car park. It's there on the second Sunday of the month and has stalls which include local venison, ostrich, kangaroo, honey, preserves, artisan cheeses and organic vegetables.

After we'd visited the historic gardens and garden centre, we made our way in to Wentworth village. You can read about that on my Through The Keyhole blog.

All in all, a lovely, but chilly, day out.

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