Sunday, 30 June 2013

Thank you and good night.

I just wanted to say a big thank you if you have been following or reading my blog.
Google reader is to be no more but my blog has a new home at
or hit the bloglovin button.
I hope you will continue to drop by.
Thanks for listening to my ramblings.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Elusive snails

I know they are around.
I've seen the signs, trails over my squash, courgettes and aubergine.
I've lifted, turned, poked prodded and furtled but I cannot find the little blighters.

I will find them, yes I will!
Elsewhere in the garden.....

the asparagus peas have finally begun to flower. 
The strawberries are ripening at a rate of about 2 a day at the moment.
Not really fast enough for my two fruit-loving fiends but they are so very packed with flavour. Hopefully, a little more sun and we might get enough for 1 each.
I will not pretend to understand the changes with google reader, it all goes over my head. For people who follow my little blog and those who lurk, I will soon be switching fully to wordpress and using bloglovin.
I apologise in advance as I get to grips with the changes, I hope you will bear with me and be very forgiving of my lacking in IT skills.
Hope to see you there.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Helpful robins.

The last time I opened the compost bin, I found that a colony of ants had decided to take up residence.
The soil was beautifully crafted into a network of tunnels, nice.
There were also hundreds of little ants eggs, not so nice.
Not a great picture.
   I have nothing against ants, there was just a shocking amount of eggs and already a huge
                                                               amount of ants.
 I left the lid off the bin and along came a family of robins, parents and fledglings (which were very shy and I couldn't get a photo).


They had a really good feed, the parents didn't mind me being a few feet away taking photos.
I did while away a good hour watching them.
The housework can wait, moments like these should be captured.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Falling in love with flowers

Last year, my gardening motto at the start of the season  was very much
 if I can't eat I don't want it.
We all make mistakes.
Over the growing season, it was great to have so much green but I missed colour.
I did have huge success with cosmos, rudbeckia goldstrum and a daisy type perennial but the overwhelming colour in the garden was green.
This year, flowers no longer rate second billing but are starring side by side with the edibles, mostly.
I still have to work on my planning, I am a work in progress as a gardener.
There are always bees to be found in the garden now, and I'm glad. To me that means I'm getting it at least quite a bit right.

Bargain bulbs from Wilkos, an unreliable permanent marker means I don't know the name.
Calendula "fruit twist"
The "bed" bed which is a mix of flowers, herbs, strawberries and garlic.
I was chatting to my neighbour over the fence this morning and neither of us have seen any ladybirds in our gardens this year, hers is a real cottage style garden so it isn't like there isn't loads to tempt all sorts of bugs.
It's a bit of a worry really. Maybe they are delayed because of the late spring.
I hope they start arriving soon.
I bought this lovely bug house from Aldi, I'd been wanting one for an age so to finally find one that was low cost enough not to make Dave raise an eyebrow was good.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Champagne bubbles

It was a lovely surprise this morning to find the first of the poppies "champagne bubbles" had quite literally "popped" open.
The casing that held the poppy bloom.
I have to admit, I was obviously very ignorant as to how the poppy would open. Still a little bit in awe of the whole process.
 I have tried sowing several batches of basil with no success what so ever.
I've never been a fan of basil before I came across a great pesto recipe which the kids love.
Rather than having to keep buying pots from the supermarket about £1.50 a time, I used the cheats method. I bought a pot of basil from Tesco, split the plants which turned out to be about 10 individual plants and gave them individual 8" pots.
After 3 weeks I planted the plants in any space around the garden, the plants have a lot more leaves per plant than when I bought it. I've now got plenty of basil and haven't bought any since..
I had bought some chalkboard pens to use on craft stuff I had been messing around with.
It was a happy accident to find that I could use them out does and the writing is weather proof.
It works on some old slate I found in the garden, pots and even pebbles.
It's proving very handy, I may know what most things are but Dave and the kids need a bit of guidance.

Bob the apple tree (as named by Leah)
 And finally....
comparing the garden 17th May
and then on the 16th June.
Very satisfying.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Poorly blueberry

Last year we had an amazing crop of blueberries, we had a  small but steady supply almost daily for weeks over the summer.
This year, the bush just hasn't had the abundance of flowers and the few juvenile blueberries look very lacklustre. I thought that maybe we just got very lucky last year.
This morning I was doing an inspection of the jostaberry when I just happened to glance a the blueberry and then it became very clear what the problem was.
 Scale insects. All the stems were covered in them.
There are various remedies I've found looking on the Internet from biological controls to wiping with meths!
I spent a good half hour popping scraping them off with my finger nail. It was a bit like popping bubble wrap only less satisfying and a bit more icky.
I had them on my lemon tree, which almost killed it off. I knocked them all off and have made sure to keep it well fed and it is bouncing back.
My RHS Gardening Encyclopedia recommends spaying with plant oil in winter which is what I'll do.

So, no bumper crop this year, we'll be lucky to get a handful,  but now I know to keep an eye out in case they come back and for the future.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Just before....

The weather has been grey and blustery.
In the garden, things look like they are just about to happen

Round courgette


And I wait patiently.

Monday, 10 June 2013

When animals attack!

Having been laid low with a cold, I've been grateful that there hasn't really been an awful lot to do in the garden besides watering and placing the odd plant in its final position.
I have been keeping an obsessively close eye on the jostaberry plant. Last year it was ravaged by sawflies that stripped it bear so when I found a leaf completely stripped, early last week,  and 6 caterpillars happily chomping away I was immediately on red alert.
I have been checking twice daily (at least), checking from all angles, moving the plant round.... You get the picture! There has been nibbling but I haven't found any more caterpillars. Maybe the birds are keeping them at bay.
Then it looks like the squirrels have been at the apples.
At first I thought it had some horrible disease then I realised there were bite marks.
We've now moved the pot away from the fence and this seems to have confused the squirrels for the time being.
So it looks like they've moved on to the radishes.
So, if it's not the wildlife nibbling, then it's the cat sabotaging my attempts.

 Immy found the perfect spot to sleep in the sun, unfortunately it was on one of my strawberry plants.
I shook a fist at her and she gave me a look of pure disdain.
Just when you think you have things under control, the forces of nature prove to you otherwise.
It is never boring.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Gardening and cake post.

 Prompted by Flighty's post (which in turn was prompted by Veg Plotting's post, and so on and so forth).
I came to baking cakes only recently, the few attempts I made usually resulted in something unspeakable. I had resigned myself to the fact that making cakes just wasn't something I would master. The earth would keep turning and life would go on.
Sparing you the tedious details, about 2 or so years ago, I tried making cupcakes, they went down well. It took me months to graduate to proper cakes, to my utter amazement, people can't seem to get enough of the cakes I make. I don't do anything amazing, just follow the recipe (some I tweak).
I think what people appreciate is home baking, something that you can tell was made that day or the day before. It tastes real.
Our friend was celebrating his 40th today and was having an open house. I'd offered to help provide some of the food, this also happened to be the couple whose garden I've been helping do. Nice to spend time in the garden and not have to do anything but relax.
This was my contribution.
Cardamon loaf and vanilla and choc chip loaf


One of the by-products of baking is the egg shells which I now keep. I give them a good rinse under a scalding hot tap then let them dry out in a bowl on the window sill.

When I need them I just give them a good bash in the pestle and mortar and sprinkle them where needed in the garden.

The cucamelon I planted out the other day all completely vanished. I'm assuming slugs or snails are the culprits hence the eggshells. Not as reliable as slug pellets but better for the wildlife.
This is my very last batch of cucamelon, if I lose these then that is it. I looked at ordering plug plants but I missed out there, so I've decided if they don't work out then I will sow more peas.
I do love my alliums, they are now fully open and stunning.
As so little else is in flower, they are helping the bees out too.
I packed away the large grow house, and now the garden is less cluttered with debris, becoming ever more green. My little, overlooked and less than perfect patch. I love it all them same.
When insomnia struck, this is where I could be found at 5.30 this morning, chopping back branches, pulling up the odd weed and generally mooching around.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Seat of the pants gardening.

Having planted out 10 tomato plants before the weekend, I was away at the weekend and unsure what I was going to come back to. I hoped I had hardened everything off enough for them to survive whatever the weather was going to throw at them.
Thankfully the weather was great and everything was as it should be when I came back Sunday night.
The weather is so up and down, it really is hard to know whether the decision you make are the right ones.
Tomatoes in final position

Half of the tomatoes had flowers forming of opening so they needed to go out, these were from an early January sowing.
I was really surprised to find I had my first tomatoes,  ferline, which I'm not sure will work in my favour.
The broad beans and peas are all coming along.
I've used canes and shelves from the grow houses to help support the stems.

I've planted out the cucamelon with barely a whisper of optimism, they do look quite pathetic.

First strawberries

Future raspberries

Dave had shown a lot of interest in us growing red strawberry popcorn as shown in James Wong's book, I had wanted to grow regular corn but it's not recommended that you grow different variety close together.
So in the interest of matrimonial harmony I got the seeds.

The general advice on growing corn is to germinate in toilet roll tubes as they don't like root disturbance. I tried this but after two weeks nothing had happened so I tried again in a regular window sill propagator and they started to germinate after a week.



I was very gentle at lifting the seedlings and planted them out and now, nearly a week on, they are definitely getting bigger.
Indoor jalapeno, sown on the 5th Jan.

I am grateful that I have plants that are doing what they should be doing somewhat early but now is not the time to get cocky, very few things are a certainty.
I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and see where it gets us.



Thursday, 23 May 2013

Keeping my dirt stained fingers crossed.

So very much is going on the garden.
It was great to see a bee busy visiting every single blossom on the apple tree about a week or so ago.
And thanks to him and others we have the first bulges of potential apples.
Very exciting!
 Sowings of coriander, fenugreek, lettuce and radish.
A second sowing of cucamelon.
I want so much for these to work but the first batch look insipid and this second batch look like they are heading in the same direction.
I've tried everything I can think of, now it is just a case of fingers crossed.

This year I'm going to try growing chillies, peppers and aubergine in the tomato grow house.
I've put a potted marigold on each shelf to help with bugs and despite the temperatures being so erratic, they seem to be thriving.

Now according to James Wong (Home grown revolution), asparagus pea will trail nicely in a hanging basket. That is, I suppose if they survive the weather which has been decidedly nippy today
All the strawberry plants are flowering. 

Cavolo de nero  and romanesco seedlings.

These lilies are thriving against all odds.
They had spent last year growing in the old tyre and I most unceremoniously yanked them out and stuffed them in these pots and they seem to be loving it.

My yearly attempt at a hanging basket.
I shall reserve judgement.

On what was already a pretty busy day, the Rocket Garden pack I won last year arrived after lunch.
It was like Christmas, opening it up and pealing back layer after layer of straw to reveal different young plants.
I have potted up a lot and found a home for quite a lot.
Hoping to pass some more to others who haven't confirmed with me yet.
I have kept a bit more than I had intended. couldn't help myself.

We shall have no shortage of lettuce.
I've kept some of the straw and put it around the strawberries.

I kept some of the borlotti beans and runner beans.
It is going to be a tad cramped but I suppose it will really be proof of how much we can squeeze in and get out of these beds.

Leah helped me build the wigwams, plant the beans and took the photo.
It is noticeably chilly tonight, just really hoping everything survives.
Fingers and toes crossed.
Happy gardening.