Monday, 15 September 2014

I had quite a busy week last week firstly there was an awful amount of veg to harvest from the tunnels so I have been busy making pasta sauces to put in the freezer to use later, and we had two large deliveries.  At the beginning of the week we took in our delivery of spring bulbs, there are some fabulous scented hyacinths that I will hopefully have in flower for christmas and a couple of tulips that I will most defiantly be planting in my own garden spring green and blue diamond is a must.

I remember when I was young my gran planted hyacinth indoors they were placed for under the table. I will find a suitable dark spot for mine that won't be constantly knocked over by small feet whilst they are eating their dinner.  In recent years I have used a narrow vase that that I have filled with water and a single bulb sits perfectly on top.   I have chosen to plant blue jacket a lovely blue hyacinth and fingers crossed I will get that fragrant scent in time for christmas they do have to have a period of dark cool conditions whilst not letting them dry out and a couple of weeks before christmas I will bring them into the warmth.  Of course hyacinths can be planted out side to flower in early spring and containers of hyacinth mixed with other short growing bulbs looks delightful. Muscari or tĂȘte a tĂȘte daffodils can give nice contrasting colours displays.
I have planted the bulbs quite close together but not touching on to moist compost with the neck of the bulb showing and placing them in a cupboard out of the way to develop good strong roots.

Our second delivery of the week was selection of Wildbird food and feeders as a gardener I like to encourage wildlife into the garden ( still struggling with frogs ).  The variety of birds that congregate some of them with lovely colours is amazing I don't know the names of all of them but I do enjoy watching them hoping around the bird table. During the colder months food can get really scarce so I always put out seed, nuts and fat balls and I am greatly rewarded for my efforts.

Monday, 25 August 2014

How To Pickle Your Onions

This is the recipe that I use for my pickled onions (I like mine with a little bite / kick to them)

You Have Grown Your Onions What Now??

Peel your onions and soak in salt water 1 desert spoonful salt in 2 pints of water.
This gives them a crunch, give them a quick rinse then put them into sterilised jars and fill with the pickling vinegar.

How To Make Your Vinegar

A bottle of malt vinegar around about 560ml
Pour Into a pan and then add the spices
Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes
1 teaspoon of coriander (I use dried)
1 teaspoon of mustard seed
1 teaspoon of peppercorns
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 flat dessert spoon of salt

Boil for 5 minutes and cool

Strain it into a jar it's ready to use!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gardening With Little People

My two children have always had an outdoors life they have been in the tunnels with me from been a few days old and both are very healthy and robust.  My eldest is nearly six now and has spent most of her short life playing in compost, planting seeds and nibbling on any fruit, veg and herbs that may be growing in the garden.  My younger daughter however wasn't as keen to begin with but with advanced years ( she has just turned four ) is an extremely enthusiastic gardener.  She has her own tools and would spend every day tending the veg plot if it was left up to her. She loves everything about it from digging for worms to watching the caterpillars and bees she fully understands the importance of worms in the garden and how caterpillars turn into butterflies and bees make honey, she truly believes that slugs and snails are the worse things ever in the whole world.

When we first started gardening to hold her interest we planted fast growing veg like radish and beans but this year she is more patent and keeps an eye on everything waiting for things to ripen and after spotting the pumpkins this morning she was beside herself with excitement.

Then there are the fun elements putting down chicken poo this still creates fits of giggles just because of the word poo! and watering, if I were to let her loose with the hose pipe on her own we would both need full wet suits what is it with kids and water even on the coolest days. Whatever little job we are doing she is learning all the time just by chatting and having fun.

She might be a great little gardener but I haven't yet managed to get her to eat any of our veg after we have harvested it, even though she promised me if we grew purple carrots she would try them.  In comes daughter number one then who eats everything whether cooked or raw and her enthusiasm never waivers at all where fresh fruit and veg is concerned.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Shrub Garden

It's easy to forget when we plant a new border how fast trees and shrubs grow and it's so tempting to plant the new area with loads of different plants without too much thought for the future and when it fills out. 

I divided my half acre garden into sections when I started to design my garden about seven years ago I had a blank canvas that didn't contain one plant, but over the years it has changed dramatically as I have tried to it make slightly lower maintenance over time and a little bit more child friendly.  My husband has moved more shrubs for me than I care to mention as they have been planted in the wrong place or just didn't look right however I think that's the fun of gardening things constantly changing and the garden never looks the same any two days in a row also ideas and tastes change.  I planted an area around five years ago and have noticed this year that it looks as if it has been there forever this particular area is just full of shrubs and is very low maintenance apart from a prune or trim once a year no weeding here at all.  What I always say to people that want to plant a new border is make sure the soil is well dug and has a good bit of compost (homemade is the best and free) a good few handfuls of chicken pellets or manure incorporated, never buy all the plants on the same day try to think about year round interest, texture and colour and finally patience half the fun for me is adding to the border and I still love planting new varieties even though it may be planted in the wrong place and my husband has to move yet another misplaced plant.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Time To Start Preserving

Last week I used up my last jar of jam from last year’s fruit and today I noticed with the recent sunshine I have masses of blackcurrants ready and ripe for picking.  In the drizzling rain this evening I started my fruit picking and so begins the start of my preserving season I am what you would call a messy fruit gardener, I am afraid I don't practice what I preach and my fruit canes and bushes are extremely out of control as I realised when I got a prickly gooseberry branch stuck in my side as I reached for a large raspberry at the back of my fruit jungle ( why do the largest juicy ones always grow at the back, out of reach and inviting any passing bird that fly over).  I couldn't tell you the name of any of my fruit as I have had them donated from friends over the years all I know is they crop extremely heavy and provide jam for the year.
It did get me thinking as I stood clutching my bowl for fear of putting it down as seven fruit loving chickens were swarming around my feet as one fruit finishes another starts giving lovely organic fruit all summer, the strawberries finished last week not that I saw many of them two little girls watch the crop on a daily basis from the white flowers to the large red fruits then eat them before any jam making can take place so that's why this is the start of preserving for me.  I don't use any fancy recipe I just make it the same as my gran did equal amount of fruit to sugar and boil away testing the boiling syrup on a plate to see if it sets, around fifteen minutes is the general rule of thumb then I carefully pour the jam into miss matched sterilised jars that I have collected throughout the year and that's that breakfasts and pies for the foreseeable future.
I have made a promise to myself that I will go and prune the black and red currants this year and tie my raspberry canes into some sort of order so that next year I won't have to fight my way into my orchard risk been impaled by thorns and stung by nettles all for a pot of jam.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Container Planting

A pot or container makes a great addition to the garden and can completely transform an outdoor space, with a little imagination they can bring year round interest and colour and add instant impact to patio’s, pathways and entrances.   Evergreen shrubs make a good choice especially if the foliage changes colour giving seasonal interest or if there is a variegation in the leaves they are easy to maintain as well.  I love my flowers and although I don't use many bedding plants I have grown a few calendula and cosmos this year that I planted out a couple of weeks ago I tend to use perennials and herbs for my patio containers,  dahlias in pots are fabulous colour towards the end of summer.   It doesn't have to be flowers and shrubs that can be planted in pots strawberries and vegetables can also be very successful in containers.  This week I've been planting up my tomatoes in hanging baskets although with the downturn in weather this week I will leave them in the tunnel for a while yet.  I planted a few potatoes at the end of April in old containers and large plant pots and they are sprouting lovely green shoots now I will continue to add a handful of manure pellets a handful of grass clippings and homemade compost covering the shoots as they grow.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Aquilegia In Full Bloom!

This week I have noticed that the Aquilegia or granny's bonnet to give it it's common name have burst into flower. The blue green fine foliage that looks great on its own of course has been around for weeks now, and I have been waiting in anticipation for the wonderful delicate flowers to emerge. Then it seems over night with a blink of the eye they are every where I look they are fabulous flowers that nod in the breeze a traditional cottage garden favourite with different heights and colours bringing the next stage of colour to the late spring garden. The biggest surprise are the plants that have self seeded and are nestling in between other plants quite un planned but they look as if they were placed there with great thought these delightful plants are very promiscuous and sow seed freely the flowers often come in varying shapes and colours producing a wonderful new mix of colours.
Here are a few from around my own garden..