Sunday, 30 June 2013

One step at a time

When we went to the lotty on Friday we did a bit more path clearing.  To be fair, Ken did most of it; I just tagged on at the end.  This is our progress so far and I am really pleased with  how it is starting to look.

It looked like this when we started.

Did some Path Clear weed spraying a while back which left us with this.

Now we are looking like this.  Yeah!!!  Wish I could afford to gravel or wood chip it but you can't have everything.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

See what a week can bring

We went to the lotty yesterday after a week's absence to pick a few leaves and some spuds for our lunch.  I was overwhelmed and so happy with the change in just a week.

From the front:

  • mixed salad leaves with a courgette in each corner (they are a bit puny)
  • five tomatoes - coming along well - big surprise
  • red spring onions - nearly ready
  • runner beans galloping up each other's poles - wish they would behave
  • broad beans - full of flowers
  • about 5 (!) carrots to the left of the broad beans
  • probably hidden by the broad beans is a bonny row of peas
Here is our first strawberry which we duly halved and ate ceremoniously after lunch.

We did a bit of weeding while we were there.

I'll post those photos tomorrow.

Meanwhile if you want to see individual mug shots of the veggies you can always have a look on the web album - link on the right.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Post lunch

This is a new post, typed post lunch .........  best I can do on a full stomach.

Just had the world's most basic meal - ham salad and it was lovely.  Why?  .... because....

  •  it was home baked ham
  • our first Charlotte potatoes, 
  • our own mixed leaves
  • our own radishes
  • our own land cress mixed in the leaves
  • coleslaw, beetroot, cucumber, tomatoes, red pepper - all of which I shall be attaching the word 'own' to sometime soon
  • not forgetting half a strawberry! 
Yes, I know that's not a huge amount of 'we did this' but just that little makes all the difference to how you feel about a meal.  It is so worth doing.

Coming from a person who decries salad this must carry some weight.

It got me thinking ... do you start growing your own (four years now for me) because you find you are returning to simple food or do you return to simple food because you grow your own?  Probably for some folk neither of the above is true.  Certainly for me though, I am getting more and more inclined to eat out less and eat simple food at home and enjoy it much, much more. 

This week is a case in point.  We had lunch out on Wednesday.  I had duck in a peppercorn sauce - no, that sauce does not work with duck, indifferent new potatoes, scrap of mixed veg.  To be fair, it was well cooked and nicely presented BUT...... not great.  This was followed by an extremely good single portion of an expensive genuine gelato (raspberry panacotta) which would have stood up beautifully on its own but no, it had to be accompanied by a (cheap) chocolate syrup - I am sure they would describe it as 'sauce' - a biscuit and a strawberry... I am eating raspberry for goodness sake.  It may even have been dusted in icing sugar - all very photogenic BUT ..... not great.

I am a bit of a 'foodie' and am known for trying anything.  This has included such dishes as lard and chestnuts, little donkey and goat stew so I am not averse to trying anything and absolutely love it when you find someone who knows their stuff, BUT ...... they are very thin on the ground. Every day when I cook and eat at home I seem to be gravitating to simpler and simpler food.  Nothing beats the best ingredients treated with love.  This is what growing your own gives you a chance to do.

Local open garden

I make no apologies for advertising local gardens that are opening soon.

This first one is well worth a visit.......... 

Photo: We are looking forward to our Charity Garden Open Day taking place NEXT SATURDAY! Who's coming along??

Second open garden

.................and the second one is astonishing in that you wouldn't know it was there!  The house is a pretty ordinary frontage but when you get to the back...... well go see for yourself.

We would like to Welcome everyone to our annual Open Garden Weekend
Please help us raise more by passing this information on to interestedparty's

Jefferson & Susan’s
Open Garden for Charity
20 & 21 July 2013 12 – 5pm
23 Dalesford Haslingden Rossendale BB4 6QH
We have a young but very interesting garden on many levels
English and Mediterranean Style, Long Borders and Interesting Features.
Japanese Garden, Outdoor Chess, Ponds.
Steel Sculptures, Gold Mine, Art Studio. and Plant Sales
Special Singing Sensation Grace O’Malley
We are supporting:
Rochdale Hedgehog Rescue - RNLI & The Smile Train
Please Donate £3.00 pp
Café Tea & Cakes
Sorry no Dogs - Strong Shoes
Thank you for your Support
Jefferson and Susan

Sunday, 23 June 2013

In my garden now

These are the last of my bulbs from Spaldings Bulbs and are lovely.  The white iris came out first and the next day the yellow ones did their thing and the next day the purple ones strutted their stuff.  They are lovely and healthy and a nice size and will find a place in my borders when the flowers have finished.

So, all the bulbs I had from them were terrific.  Only the alium were puny and in fairness to them I am rubbish at growing alium and I think it was down to me.  They were under-potted and the pot was standing in water most of the time and they don't like wet feet so they didn't get their best test.  They have gone into the garden and seem to be surviving well so, who knows, I may get brilliant ones next year.

The orange poppies are ruining my colour palette as they do every year but they win!  I have dug them up year after year and they come back every year so I am trying to learn to enjoy them for the short time they are with me.  They do jangle the nerves though as they fill my eyeballs.

For someone who has allowed creeping buttercup to flower and grasses to grow in her borders I have a cheek complaining about rogue poppies.

Honestly I am trying to actually cultivate a wild look so the borders will need less maintenance.  It is probably not a great idea but worth a shot.

I want roses, foxgloves, poppies, astrantia, japanese anemones, astilbe, granny bonnets and their like to take over and do their own thing and I will just remove the thuggy occasional dock, thistle or whatever.  In reality what's happening is that a mass of grass, creeping buttercup and nettles are having a field day!

To cheer me up here's one of my favourites - I love foxgloves and they are coming into their own right now in all the right (!) colours. 

Click on a picture to make it bigger if you want to see the weeds better!  Have a look at the web album if you want to see more flowers.  Link on the right.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

A sort of heading

James Galway - my first rose this year
I had a lot to blather about today so I split it into three to make it more digestible.  If you are joining me here... there are three new posts following this intro....

To bird table or not to bird table .......

That is the question!

I have a bird table in the garden, getting a bit dilapidated but still looks just right where it is, but we never see a bird!!! I am totally fed up - year six - buying bird seed, feed, meal worms etc just to be ignored - other than by the local elephant size pigeons that positively mangle the vegetation to get to stuff.  I decided to get rid of it and replace it with a multi-arm shepherd crook type affair and hang half a dozen hanging baskets from it and maybe a couple of bird feeders to see if they fare any better.

Off to Gordon Riggs last Wednesday to purchase such an object.  I then had to buy a pile of plants to go in the various baskets - thank heavens I got a grip and stopped myself from actually buying any baskets.  I knew I had some at home but I wasn't sure I would be happy with the selection.

Ken stuck the pole together and suggested I had a look at it in situ before he removed the bird feeder - wise man - I totally hated the hooky thing.  It dominated the whole garden and that was without the OTT flowering baskets.  So he dismantled it and we have a trip to Riggs to look forward to so we can return it (hopefully).

So, I was now left with a dozen plants and nowhere to put them.

The pathetic aliums got whipped out of the long tom on the patio and a group went in there.

A hanging basket became a table pot by the loungers and I planted up a hanging basket and hung it in a tree for lack of anywhere else to put it.  

Not exactly what was planned but I will love them just the same when they do their thing.

If you want to see those and other stuff have a look at the web album - click on this: Garden 2013.

On which note....  I suddenly really missed my mom today as she was the only person I know who was interested in my garden.  I miss her for a lot of things but sharing the love of gardening is a big thing.  I know I keep blogs for the pleasure of writing them and as a memoir for myself - a bit like we used to have photo albums I suppose, but I hope there is also a 'share' element with them too.  Is a big part of doing things you like doing, most of us want others to like it too. 

Convenient salads

I planted spring onions and salad leaves and radishes at the lotty and they have done brilliantly. We have eaten the row of radishes and pretty much got through the salad leaves and the onions are coming along fine.  It then occurred to me I could use that space more usefully growing bigger longer lasting stuff that I only want to harvest occasionally.  I really could do with salady - couple of leaves on your sandwich- type stuff near to the house.

I had ousted some staging from the greenhouse so it seemed reasonable to put it to some use.

I started growing in seed trays.  They have all come up really well but I do think they are a wee bit too shallow and crowded to continue to do well .

I bought four terrific troughs for just £1.99 each from Home Bargains and I decided I would have a go at transplanting some stuff to give them more room before I went on to sow some seeds to stagger the crops. 

 I moved just 14 radishes (one meal) to one container.  I am not sure if you can successfully transplant salad stuff, so this is a bit of an experiment.

Not sure if I will move any more on or just see how they do in their shallow tray.

I do need to plant up some radish seeds though if I am going to keep them on the go - as I said we can knock this lot off in one meal, easily.

Another trough got some cut and come again salad leaves moved on into it.  I tried hard not to just take the biggest leaves as I suspect that is just one variety of leaf.  I hope I have taken a mix of stuff.  The logic behind this is that if they transplant OK they should give me three crops before giving up the ghost now they have more compost and space to go at.  I may not have to plant any new leaf seeds for a month to join the staggered leaf rota.

My third new container has some land cress moved on into it.  Again I have a seed tray full of it and it needs to be thinned to four inches apart to do well.  It is something of a thug so I expect this to survive the move.

What to do with the other few hundred plants is another question.

I utterly recommend it to any water cress fan.  Water cress  is pricey to buy and doesn't keep more than a day.  Land cress is very nearly the same taste and is right there all year just when you need a handful of it.

Here they all are happily nestled on their staging outside the greenhouse in the utility area.  They ought to do OK as they are snuggled up to the house wall, protected from the wind by the fence opposite and in the sun for half of the day.

The pot at the bottom is mint.  I just moved it on from its cripplingly small pot to give it a breather until I can put it in the long tom on the patio which has the irises in at the moment.  The mint might actually do better here as it likes a little shade and the patio plants do get a baking when the sun comes out.

Grown up greenhouse

I cleared the greenhouse out a couple of weeks ago and have at last got round to doing something with it. I bought some veggies for it from Riggs when we were there. 

 For my tomato variety I decided on Three Tumbling Toms. I have grown them a couple of times and have done well with them other than they put on fruit too late to ripen because I grew them outside.  it took me three summers to grasp we are just too far North to do this.  I like them because they were prolific and don't need fiddling around with like cordon tomatoes do.  All that pinching out and tying up is lovely if they are your hobby, but I am not that interested in playing with them.  My tiddly greenhouse is too small to grow three bush tomatoes which might have done the job but.  Luckily I also like small sweet tomatoes rather than the sandwich slicing varieties.  I will be interested to see how they get on now they are in a greenhouse.

Their pots are a bit on the small side so it will be a case of feeding them almost daily to get them to do any good.  If you under-pot something like this it is a bit like growing hydroponically, they are very dependent on water and food being doled out at regular intervals because they haven't much compost to go at.  That's OK as I want to keep an eye on their progress.

The left side (and sunnier?) of the greenhouse now has a red pepper - the basic one - Bell Boy.  I am promised 75 cms of height so I gave it one of the supports I don't use in the garden any more.  

On the floor beside it, on a lower level because it should grow taller, is a cucumber.  No idea what that will do - cucumbers in greenhouses are new to me. This was just named as Cucumber - Mini .... a bit vague to say the least.  Promises 120 cm height so there's just enough room.  It also says it needs support .  I have given it the frame for starters and then it will get a bamboo cane methinks.

So that's my summer greenhouse set up with proper greenhouse things growing in it.  

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Quick flit

Twelve o'clock I threw a couple of baking spuds in the oven for our lunch and we went to the lotty to pick some lettuce .  I decided as we were going any way I might as well take some canes to help out the broad beans before they get any taller and fall around even more than they are already doing.

I hope this construction is the answer.  I should probably have tied each one to a cane???

We also took long canes with us to finish off the fruit cage - posh name for a bit of four quid netting, but it does the job just fine.

I sort of regret putting down the weed suppressing stuff because I could have used all that spare space this year.  Mind you it would have been a pig to put in the membrane after the strawberries were planted so I suppose it was the right way to go about it and I will just have to imagine the strawberries and rhubarb filling the bed eventually.  Always assuming the rhubarb doesn't get stuck in a bin - with or without soil!

My plan with the strawberries is to take runners each year and grow them on for one season and then replace one side of the bed so eventually there will be a four year rotation going on with the stock - each side in turn each year.  Four years is as long as you should keep strawberry plants.

We got back home with fifteen minutes to spare - where does forty-five minutes go when you are in the garden?  Yes, we did remember the lettuce leaves and they were lovely.

Sunday, 9 June 2013




Granny Bonnets

Last year I grew hundreds of granny bonnets from seed.  A friend brought me some packets back from her visit to Giverny.

I planted as many as I could make room for - probably about thirty good size plants.  I gave the rest to anyone I could persuade to take them, including my friend the giver.  

I also told them they would have them in their garden forever and every one would be a surprise as they hardly ever repeat themselves.  

Granny bonnets are famous for their promiscuity and fecundity and if they do really well you can end up cursing them as you are pulling them out like weeds from every nook and cranny.  

I was overjoyed by this prospect as I am sort of turning my borders into semi-wild and want to plant anything that will self-seed and fill in every little spare spot before the creeping buttercup and grass does.

Here are five of the six plants that have appeared this year.  Seriously, I have a grand total of six plants.  My friend, the giver, has a zillion!

That said - aren't they just lovely.

Please, please let me have a million more next year.

This is the one I actually have duplicated.  Obviously the toughy of the bunch!
This looks mucky coloured here - it is actually the colour of claret and gorgeous.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

It is all about water

We spent a big chunk of our day watering today.  We are looking after a friend's house/garden while they are away so we went there and did some watering.

My pots (not on the watering system) at home need watering every day, fortunately that's only a handful of the 22 pots I have around the place - I am so glad I cut down!!

But then all the 22 do need feeding once a week.  I usually do this on Sunday but we are out tomorrow so that needed doing too.

......and then, there's the lotty.  That's a lot of water!
In no way is all this a complaint I am happy to be out there doing something.  I am rubbish at just sitting in the sun so it is really good to have 'chores' that get me outside to enjoy the lovely weather we are having right now.

I took five teeny tomato plants with me - this is as far as they have got from seeds sown in April so I am not very optimistic about them.  I still want to have a go outside though and see what happens.  I pulled up the last of the radishes and put these tomatoes in their place.  I assume the spring onions and lettuces will be out of the way before (if!) the tomatoes take off.
The potatoes are doing well.  Can't wait to start harvesting those.  I am a real potato fan and home-grown are even better, I promise you.

I have three varieties to go at so that should be interesting too.  Strictly speaking it is the humble spud which led me to the lotty in the first place - never could grow enough in the garden to make it worthwhile, so I knew this would be the answer.

I took the net off the mixed veg box and lobbed it over the strawberries as we have quite a few flowers on them so we should get some fruit.  As I had pigeon damage early on this year I thought the birds might have a field day on the strawberries when they come in.  The rhubarb is still a bit pathetic.  I know it needs at least a year to settle in - it just seems as though its not moving at all.

The plum tree £3 bargain wasn't a bargain - it was as dead as a dodo.  I wish I trusted my instincts more.  It was pulled up and cut up and that left a pot of perfectly good compost going begging so it may as well house a courgette plant.  Get ready to find the hundred things you can make from a courgette cookbook.
Best of all Ken pulled up loads and loads of weeds from around my boxes, so it is starting to look like the real McCoy. 

I grow absolutely organically but I am not against weed-killing in path areas which is what we did here.  A few days ago I sprayed it with Path Clear - chose a no wind day and aimed it low down and with great care.  Today that meant the huge clumps of grass and dock leaves were fairly easy to pull up.  Not that it isn't a back-breaking job and I am very grateful for my garden labourer who comes to the lotty with me each time.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

What's not to like

I stood in front of my sink today and gawped at my garden as I always do and thought this is a feeling to share. I love being home and in my kitchen on a sunny day - bread-maker wafting up delicious bready smells, flowers in a vase and the sun shining outside.  

Then to top it all we have a little bundle of goodies form the lotty to go with our chicken sandwich.

The penny also came from the lotty!  It is actually here so you can see how big the lovely radishes were.

What's not to like? 

Monday, 3 June 2013

What's eating my garden?

The title isn't wrong - I don't mean what is eating this plant - I do mean what is eating my garden?

I have lost two complete clematis to the THING and the others are severely gnawed.  This is a photo of one of them that has had every green bit of it chewed off - it is reduced to sticks.  The other one looks even worse - I thought it was dead but it is putting up shoots from the base which are also - guess what - being eaten.

Another clematis threw out a puny flower which also got eaten.

Where it isn't actually eating the whole plant it is taking huge chunks out of leaves and with the exception of woody plants it seems to like everything.  It is hacking away at the foxgloves and even stinging nettles!!  These and other 'hairy leafers' make me think it probably isn't slugs as they don't go for plants with hairy leaves.  

Actually I hardly ever see a slug or a snail - I have worked hard year on year reducing their numbers (we were knee-deep in them when we moved here) and then keeping their population down.

I did see quite a lot of earwigs last year - could it be those?  That said I haven't seen a single one yet.  I did have lily beetle but thought I had got rid of that????

Saturday, 1 June 2013

First harvest from the lotty

Just to record my first harvest from the lotty.  They were a nice size and none had to be thrown away.  I admit there was a slight sign of slug nibbling here and there but I have never grown a radish without.  

They also tasted good!

Jobs for June

Here's the list of things I should be doing in June (remember probably nearly a month later than down South). It will be interesting to see what I actually manage to do.

  • weed and feed the lawn - just today I noticed the creeping buttercup creeping its way across the lawn.
  • trim the box hedge around the patio - only do that once a year - it is just about the right height at last
  • trim the photinia red robin - I have a lollipop version and it always looks better for a bit of a trim
  • feed the various pots dotted around the place - I give them a 'Sunday dinner' every week - makes it easy to remember