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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Although it might not feel like it right now, each day in February is a small step towards the spring. The days are getting longer.

In the garden the crocuses are popping out of the snow in their golden yellow.

If I can get in the greenhouse for the snow, I am going to plant some early broad beans (I'm using The Sutton this year).  I have some lettuce and cavelo nero in there at the moment looking in great health.

I've spent a cold winter day looking through seed catalogues and got my order in. I think the first thing to arrive will be my seed potatoes. I'd better start collecting egg boxes to store them in on the windowsill!

One thing I do need to do this year is sort out the lawn in my back garden. My two dogs have made a dogs dinner of it! Their claws have dug up the grass terribly. If you have any ideas on what I could do instead of lawn, please add a comment - all suggestions gratefully received!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The tastes and smells of Summer

One of the most useful veg plants I grow are courgettes. You only need a few plants (I have three this year) and the give you a fantastic yield. They also seem really versatile. In the beginning, I pick them when they're really small & use them whole in stir fries and curries.

They're great to eat raw with good healthy dips too. And as much as I try, there's always the odd few that turn into massive ones, which I use in the same way as marrows - I've got a couple like that now. My favourite way to cook them as marrow is:

  1. Cut in half length ways
  2. Remove the seeds
  3. Stuff with grated cheese (red leicester is good)
  4. Add some slices of tomato (thick, juicy Italian ones are best)
  5. Bake in the oven for 40 mins
  6. Enjoy with some good, crusty bread!

The herbs are doing well at this time of year too, with some great smells in the garden. I have some mint, rosemary, sage & lavender just outside my back door & it smells wonderful as you go past. The lavender has been a real attraction for the bees too. The colour is wonderful!

Thanks for reading x

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

sweet smelling sweet peas

I've tried red cabbage this year & it seems to be doing well. I've got a raised bed full of it.

I've seen a few cabbage white butterflies around, so I'm trying to shoo off any that I see! I expect they would love a taste!

The runner beans are doing well. I always plant them with sweet peas & they look lovely growing together. The sweet peas encourage the bees into the garden & so more runner beans are pollinated. You have to keep picking the sweet peas on a daily basis though, to stop them going to seed. On the up side, it means you always have a vase full of beautiful smelling sweet peas on the kitchen windowsill.  The runner beans are starting to flower, so I'm hoping the beans will start to grow shortly.

We've had a fair bit of rain, but could do with a bit more sun though to get some more things along. My tomatoes have started to fruit though, so I'll post some pics of them the next time.

Thanks for reading x

Sunday, 19 June 2011

salad here I come!

We haven't had the best weather lately - not much sun! However, we have had a lot of rain, which has helped the garden grow. I'm just starting to get some of the first fruits of the season.

I grew cucumber for the first time last year & it was great - so it was one of the first things I wanted to do again. I've now got about 8 cucumbers almost ready to eat.

I like to eat them when they're not too big, then you can eat the whole thing in one go (unlike those massive supermarket ones!)

One of my other favourites is tomatoes - this year I am growing some big & small ones. They are just starting to fruit now. I think it's amazing how quick they grow. I pinch them out each day when watering & they almost seem to grow before my eyes. I have planted basil with the tomatoes for a couple of reasons. Firtly, because basil tastes great with tomatoes, so you can pick them together. And secondly, because it helps to keep whitefly away.

I hope the next time I post a blog entry, I might be able to add a pic or two of some newly fruiting tomatoes!

Thanks for reading x

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Good things come in small packages.

This year I have grown some beetroot in modules. I've not yet planted it out, but when I do, I'm not going to thin it out. I'm growing it in little clusters. I think small beetroot is more tasty (gold ball size), so I'm happy for it to grow together.

Beetroot packed tightly together

I think its lovely how you can already see the redness of the beetroot through the leaves, even though its still only v small.

I also like to grow onions close together - in clusters of five or six. Again, when you eat them small, they are lovely.

In the next two weeks (when all danger of frost has passed), I am going to plant out my veggies that are all safely tucked up in the greenhouse at the moment. These are:

  • Beetroot
  • Leeks
  • Courgettes
  • Red Cabbage
  • Sprouts
  • Runner Beans
I can't wait!

Thanks for reading x

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dracula is not welcome here!

The potatoes are coming up well. I have earthed them up a few times & it seems there's no stopping them!

I have also planted marigolds (shown on last post) in with the potatoes . Marigolds smell strongly & so deter pests. Also, I have heard that their roots help to kill eelworm & other baddies in the soil. Potatoes are a brillinant crop to grow, because they are so easy. You just stick them in the ground, earth them up a bit, water them & then reap the benefit in round about 12 weeks. New potatoes (about the size of a golf ball) taste wonderful. You just rinse them under the tap & boil / steam for a few mins. Add a bit of butter & mint to them when cooked and mmm mmm yummy!

If you don't have room, think again - you can plant these in containers very easily - large plant pots, buckets, bags you name it. You can then just pick them as & when you need them. They grow in just about any soil & will actualy help to break up & improve the soil, so you can't go wrong!

Another favourite of mine to grow is garlic. I planted mine in October last year into the raised beds. It's great when they suddenly appear (you can easily forget you planted them). This is how they are looking now:

I can't wait till Summertime to pick these. They store ever so well; I still have some from last year. To store them I get old pairs of tights and put the garlic in then make a knot in between each one. I then hang all the tights up in the garage. When I want a garlic, I just go cut off the one at the bottom of the tights. I also store onions in this way.

Garlic is also good to use on companion planting. It smells strong & so deters the pests. An old wives tale used to be to plant a row of garlic as a border, so that rabbits would not pass the border. It deters Dracula, so who knows?

If you boil the leaves of garlic you can use it as a spray to deter aphids & I have also heard it can help to prevent tomato blight & mildew in cucumbers. It is so good for us humans, no wonder it's good for the plants too!

Still no rain here, so the watering is a major priority. I am also getting desperate to plant more things outside, but know from experience it's still too early. Only a couple of weeks to go & then I can start filling the outside garden up, rather then just the greenhouse.

Thanks for reading x

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

What a difference a bit of sun makes!

Due to the warm weather we've been having, some of my seeds are sprouting in no time. The picture below shows some of the faster ones at a week old.

From left to right they are - courgettes, watermelon and cucumber. I have since potted the courgettes on & they are even bigger now. The cucumbers are going in raised beds in the greenhouse, so I have put a couple of those in there already. I now need to build a frame for them to grow up. Last year I used chicken wire, but it wasn't very good, so it's back to the drawing board this year. If anyone has any good tips, I would love to hear them.

I have also planted marigolds out in my outdoor raised beds as companion plants. I have planted them all around the border.The smell should deter pests. Anyway, I think they look lovely anyway, no matter what job they are put there to do. Here's one looking all pleased with himself in the sun!

Whilst I've been out in the garden enjoying the sunny weather I've also had a nice surprise. This is my strawberries a month ago:

Whilst I was watering them at the weekend, I just noticed that they have flowers appearing! I am so excited, as I actually bought some strawberries from the supermarket last week and they were rubbish. They were all white inside and tasteless. The ones I grew last year were red inside and almost melted in your mouth.

I am counting the days till I get get some cream on these!

Thanks for reading my blog xxx