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Archive for May, 2010

I have decided to think about what plants I would like to grow from seed next year to fill the gaps that will be left from the vegetables and some of the plants in our flower beds. It is probably a bit too late for me to sow any more plants or flowers outside, but I have decided to dig out a tin and keep it as a seed box. That way, when I see any packets of seeds that I would like to try, I can buy the packet and keep it until I am ready to sow them.

I would definitely like to try the Rio Grande plum tomato variety, as well as the Marmande beefsteak tomato, as they both look delicious.

At a flea market that I went to I saw a flower stall with the most beautiful Sweet William flowers on it, which smelt gorgeous, so I would like to try to grow these from seed in one of our flower beds.

I really want to try to grow giant Sunflowers and have a sunflower growing competition with James, so they are definitely on the list.

I also wanted to try peas this year but what with the two varieties of climbing beans we are growing I dont think we have the room for these this year.

Last but not least, I want to grow the beautiful red Field Poppy, also known as The Flanders Poppy or the Remembrance Day poppy. Red is my favourite colour but I also think there is something  meaningful in growing this variety. Plus I think a bedful of bright ruby red poppies against our white house will look stunning.

So, armed with my list, I then went on http://www.amazon.co.uk and ordered myself packets of each of these. I will keep these nice and safe with my Chantenay carrot seeds and my leftover Lollo Rosso lettuce seeds  until next year in my new seed tin!

Giant Sunflower

Flander Poppy

Sweet Williams

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Gooseberry Picking!

Gooseberries ready for cooking!

I actually had no idea that we had a gooseberry bush in our garden! It was in the front bed when we moved in here and just looked to me like some sort of ordinary shrub. It was only when my parents came to visit that my mom pointed out that it was a gooseberry bush, and showed me the little hairy grape like fruit underneath the leaves!

Now I am really not keen on the sour flavour of gooseberries, and I am not one of life’s cookery experts, in fact I hate cooking, James is the chef of the house. So last year my mom had our little harvest of gooseberries and turned them into gooseberry jam, gooseberry fools and even rhubarb and gooseberry crumble!  Today on my potter around the garden I found that our little gooseberries were ripe and ready for the picking, so I harvested them. Not the biggest stash, but they should make a nice jam at the very least!!! One word of caution though: when picking gooseberries always wear thick gardening gloves as they are prickly little blighters!

this year's gooseberry stash!

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Sieving the stones from the soil - using our KITCHEN COLINDER!!!!grrr......In our garden we have possibly the ugliest, pointless garage ever. It is positioned right next to the house but at such an angle that it would be nigh on impossible to get a car into it! We have so far been using it to store gardening tools but I think if both of us had our way it would be knocked down to give more room to the garden. As this is a rental property, we cant make such big structural changes, however our plan has always been to grow plants up and over it so that the majority of it is covered.

Today we began to do this. First of all, we had to create a flower bed against the back of the garage.  James dug up the gravel that had been used to cover the foundations of the concrete garage and lined the gap with wooden border roll (Morrisons, £3 a roll – SO cheap, do NOT buy this from garden centres or places like Homebase as they charge three times as much!!!) We then filled it with a mixture of soil from other parts of our garden and compost (J.Arthur Bower’s multi purpose compost with added John Innes – yes I am a John Innes convert!!!) and flattened it down to make a slightly raised flower bed.

The bed area as it was...

Next to our house is a meadow with the remains of what used to be a plant nursery on it. There are many fantastic fruit trees and shrubs on this wasteland so James went a-plant rustling and came back with three tall, well established raspberry trees. Now plant rustling is only okay in these circumstances because no one owns or is using the deserted plant nursery, plant rustling is NOT OKAY in other circumstances, i.e stealing neighbour’s plants! Disclaimer over.

The finished product!

We then planted three of these raspberry trees against the garage wall and secured them on canes to give them support. We also planted the jasmine plant nearest the door so that it would give off a lovely smell, and James also planted one of our lemon mint cuttings. Mint has a reputation of growing completely rampant in gardens, but apparently this is the look James is going for and who am I to argue when he has done such a fantastic job on the flower bed???

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My very lovely kitchen compost bin

A few weeks ago, when I was getting into the idea of composting (see my earlier post) I decided that rather than have to use plates, my hands etc (and try not to heave) to take kitchen waste out to the compost bin in the garden, I would buy myself a kitchen compost bin.

Now I am pleased to say that you can find no end of lovely kitchen compost bins, my mom’s one from Lakeland is particularly nice. I got mine (the one in the photograph) from www.amazon.co.uk but www.tallulahbloom.co.uk also have amazing ones, as well as some lovely accessories for the home and garden in general! You can also get some unique ones from www.ebay.co.uk as well as some really fab ones from http://www.lakeland.co.uk/F/keyword/kitchen%20compost. You can also buy special compostable binliners for your kitchen composter from most of these stores too.

Mine is really handy for putting vegetable peelings, old tea bags and fruit cores and skins in. Plus it looks gorgeous and suits my kitchen, so I am happy!

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The Tomato Project

I have decided that I am going to give tomatoes a go as my next vegetable of choice. We LOVE tomatoes and eat so many of them – tinned, chopped, passata, sundried, salads… so I have decided to experiment a bit with growing them and see how it goes.

I was a little hesitant to try tomatoes at first because I know that a lot of gardens suffered with tomato blight last year, and when I watched ‘The Edible Garden’ even Alys Fowler’s plot did not escape untouched. I have decided to grow a mixture of indoor and outdoor tomato plants, using tomatoes that I have grown from seed and the kind donation of two tomato plants from next door’s market garden. I have decided that I am going to grow the plants that I grew from seed in the conservatory in growbags, and the tomato plants that Juliette has given me in pots out on the patio along with some of the other tomato plants that I have grown indoors in with them.

I have been reading a brilliant book on growing tomatoes, called ‘The Tomato Book: A guide to the pleasures of choosing, growing and cooking’ by Gail Harland and Sofia Larrinua-Craxton. The seeds that I have chosen to sow are the Gardener’s Delight variety which according to my book are from the cherry tomato family and are one of the best known types of tomato. I also REALLY fancy giving some of the plum varieties a go too, such as the delicious looking Rio Grande tomato which is widely grown in Greece, and the San Marzano Lungo variety from Italy. I almost bought a packet of italian tomato seeds from Ledbury the other day and I wish I had now, but you can also get seeds of these tomatoes from:  http://www.seedsofitaly.com/catalogue/3 for between £1 and £3 a packet….sorry just got distracted looking at all of the fabulous seeds you can buy on there……!  Maybe next year….

Aaaanywaaay…. I am just waiting for my little baby seedling tomato plants to pop through the soil and get a little bigger, then off we will go!

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Marvellous potato plants

Well today I have taken myself (and a cup of tea) off for a potter around the garden to give you a status update on the vegetables and the fruit plants.

First stop: The vegetable patch. James’ potato plants are looking AMAZING and are now beginning to flower, with lovely white and yellow flowers appearing! The onions seem to have grown overnight and are now about ten centimetres tall, and the broad beans are looking lush, green and growing quite fast also.  The sweetcorn was planted some time after the other plants in the vegetable patch, but is catching up with the onions! It is all looking great at the moment.

Next I went to have a look at our lovely strawberry plants which we have planted in the rockery at the base of the black maple tree. These plants are so pretty, with bright pink flowers. No sign of any fruit yet though!

We have created a raspberry patch at the back of our garage so we will have to see how these plants take (see new flower bed post).  We are (with the help of http://www.redrobingardens.co.uk) putting together the new raised bed tomorrow which is SO exciting! We have planned to put the french climbing beans,the yellow courgette plant, and the lettuce, rocket and spring onion seedlings into the raised bed, and we may even have some room for some more fruit or vegetables! I can’t wait!!!

Strawberry plants

Me, a cup of tea and my laptop

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French lavender, all gift wrapped

Today I went to my parents’ house for sunday lunch. I wanted to get my mom a present so I popped to our local nursery, which is Grange Farm Nursery in Guarlford, Malvern.  This nursery is where we bought our potato, bean and onion seeds for our first vegetable patch and we have been frequent customers ever since.  I bought a beautiful hot pink azalea from them a few weeks ago and had been meaning to take James down to have a look at their fantastic Timperley rhubarb plants.

I popped in there on the way and found some stunning french lavender plants (the ‘fathead’ variety, ha ha!) which were gorgeous, very lush and with beautiful bright purple, almost thistle shaped heads. Needless to say they also smelt really lovely.  At a very reasonable price of £6.95, I couldnt really say no.

The sales staff at the Nursery are always really helpful and ready to give advice and tips, and the sales assistant not only gift-wrapped the lavender up for free he also gave me the following helpful hints:

1. Lavender like full sun where possible.

2. French Lavender does better in containers than in the ground and should be moved indoors during the winter months.

3. French Lavender really benefits from soil mixed with John Innes grade 2 or 3.

My mom loved her plant and I was so impressed with it I think I will pop back during the week and buy myself a couple of lavender plants to put in containers by our patio! Better get some of this John Innes grade 2 compost too while I am at it!!!

Grange Farm Nursery, Malvern

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