Friday, 22 May 2009

Cruel Cruel World

Every year a family of sparrows nest in our gutter above the kitchen door, we are greeted every day with bird song and baby birds calling for their next juicy meal. It is just so fascinating to watch the male and female bird nip in and out of the gutter every minute of the day, taking a rest on the fence post before flying off to forage for more food or material for the nest. Sadly yesterday as I looked out of the back door I spied the first sign of the chicks this year, one of the young had fallen or was pushed out of the nest and as it lay there waiting for nature to make the next move his parents flitted around either looking for him or waiting to see if he would get up. It was quite moving to see such maternal/paternal behaviour of the sparrows they didn’t leave the lifeless chick for ages. After taking the children to school/playgroup I returned to deal with the dead body by the back door however nature had made it’s move before me, something had eaten it’s head, it is such a good job the kids are not tall enough to look through the door window yet. I decided that I would wait for Al to come home and deal with it (not that I am sure what I was going to do with it because I’m a bit girly when it comes to things like that, and as soon as I open the back door my children are there with their wellies ready to lend mommy a hand). By the time Al came home the baby sparrow had gone, I think our next-door neighbour’s cat has disposed of it for me.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Thrifty me!

Whilst doing my weekly shop I spotted a reduced Kabocha squash, which sparked a thrifty plan for next year… I thought I could make a soup with the flesh and keep the seeds for next year… A healthy hearty meal and a packet of seeds all for £1.25 – BARGAIN. It is a green skinned variety with deep orange flesh and a sweat flavour with a hint of chestnut. Check out my blog next year to see how successful I am at growing this variety of squash ;o)

Braving the Elements

Well this week has put my garden to the test, it has had to withstand strong winds, which sadly my greenhouse didn’t, the wind has managed to break the zip on the door so now I am using clothes pegs to close it at night.

And as the wind has started to die down (slightly) we have been greeted with a flood, well almost, we have had pretty shocking rain storms since Friday along with Thunder & Lightening, which according to Jack is Superheroes fighting Villains. Well if it stops him being scared when the thunder claps I’ll go with it, obviously my idea of it being friendly Giants rolling their dustbins out was not exciting enough!

Today the weather tricked me, it teased me with a splash of sunshine but by the time we had all got our wellies on and got out into the garden the blue sky had turned to grey and the heavens opened again.

I hope it doesn’t last much longer as I’m not sure how much more my tender little seedlings/plants can take, plus it is my friend’s daughter's first birthday this week and they’re having a garden party… Aunty Lucy will keep her fingers crossed for you Edie xx

On the positive note I have noticed a big difference in my garden over the last week, I now have turnips, beetroots, cabbages, nasturtiums, and peas breaking through the soil in the raised bed, there are sunflower, lupins and gladioli shoots just peeping out of the ground at the bottom of the garden, plus Jack’s carrots, tomatoes and butternut squash have all begun to sprout, as for my potatoes they are lush.

The Pumpkins have begun to show signs of flowers and the sweetcorn are doing really well I did plan to leave them out of the greenhouse this weekend to harden them off before I plant them out, however with the weather as it is I don’t want to damage them before their roots touch the ground.

My one and only pepper on the other hand... yes I thought there were two then one disappeared leaving one and now I can’t see any anywhere in the seed tray – what have I done? My Chilli plants however are a different story they are bushy with tiny fruits appearing on them, it is so exciting, it’s like Christmas has come early…

... sorry just doing a little jig of excitement.

PS I shall be adding photos to my posts as soon as I find my card reader.

Friday, 15 May 2009

For Victoria from Recycled Plant Pot Woman!

I bought some strawberries today and thought that perhaps I could use the punnet and lid as a seedbed and propagator, I have also seen my Liquid Tabs Tub in the same light, as long as they are both lined with something dark like a compost bag because apparently roots don’t like the light so I have read, I think they will be perfect.

I have also come up with another container idea I think you'll like, I am going to use the Christmas chocolate tins (1kg ones) that I keep every year to store cakes etc in (and never do) to grow my lettuce in, think it will be a hammer and nail job rather than a heated skewer to make the holes in the bottom for drainage. Do let me know what you think.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Maggie loves gardening; I thought maybe that the weekend’s interest might be a one off, but I don’t think it is what ever I have been up to today in the garden she has come over to lend a hand (it wasn't always appreciated especially when trying to transplant long leggy cabbages). Lets hope this interest continues throughout her life, perhaps she’ll have chickens etc and become self sufficient and green, a proper hippy chick.

Extreme Gardening

Well what a lovely day we have had blue skies and lovely warm sunshine, perfect for sowing more seeds, well that is what I thought until I stepped out side and nearly lost my head by the force of the wind rattling round my garden. However I did not let it stop me from doing my jobs for the day, although sowing seeds outside was not the best plan for the day, they were blowing everywhere, it will be interesting to see what pops up where especially in my seed trays, I have labelled them Hollyhock, Marigold, Stock and Foxgloves, but who knows what might pop up where. I’m sure I saw a Marigold seed in the tray labelled Hollyhock.

As I mentioned above I have sown Foxglove seeds today, the are so tiny that I have had to just scatter them across the seed tray, according to the packet there are 2000 seeds in the packet, that is going to take a lot of thinning out when the time comes.


the peppers are worrying me as they are not looking very healthy, but I shall not give up on them just yet.

Exciting news from the raised bed plot, I have 14 of the 18 turnip seeds have germinated and they look lovely all in a row, no sign of the peas, cabbages or beetroot as yet, I am checking everyday.

I have potted the remaining marigold plants into a container on my patio and two of the leggy cabbages have been potted up, I am hoping that they will accompany our Sunday roasts later in the year. The rest have gone to compost heaven.

Reduce; Reuse; Recycle

Alys Fowler’s book ‘The Thrifty Gardener’ has inspired me to look at empty bottles, containers etc in a different light, last year I decided that I would do my bit to recycle as much as our waste as possible, so I got my compost bin at a reduced price from my local council, I bought a bin which has 3 sections in it, I have a section for stuff that can go in my compost, one for items the council will recycle – tins, glass and paper (all goes in the one council recycle box) and then the other section if for non recyclable items. I also have the large white council recycle bag (bit like the IKEA bags) this is for plastic and cardboard, not the best thing to put light weight items in especially during windy periods, we have spent many a wet windy day collecting our empty bottles and cereal boxes off our neighbours gardens.

I’m doing my best to be greener in my lifestyle, I’m sure there is more I could and should do. Any suggestions, tips etc always welcome.

I digress sorry, so today I have planted more sunflower seeds (do you think I like sunflowers?) in a Vanish Oxy Clean tub, and have collected all the squash & pop bottles out of the recycle bag to use as cloches and protection from slugs.

I quite fancy the idea of using tin cans as flower pots too but according to Alys Fowler I need the ones that have a white coating inside as the metal ones rust, well obviously I am not buying posh enough tins as all mine to date have been metal, so for now I am going to use empty (obviously – don’t know why I wrote that for) plastic milk bottles, and the plastic baked bean pots that you put in the microwave.

Jack’s Dig In Tomatoes have begun to germinate; he has three little seedlings standing to attentions in his recycled plastic milk bottle flowerpot.

Gardener’s Companion

Al has taken Jack to a birthday party this afternoon so Maggie and I have slipped on our wellies and headed for the garden. I have managed to have a little bit of a tidy up and have planted parsnip & aubergine seeds, I know I am a bit late with this but I figured better late than never and I plan to grow the aubergines in my greenhouse rather than outside so this should aid the ripening of the fruit, if they appear.

I have also planted the marigolds out into the pots with my trailing sunflowers to try and fill the gaps. Talking of sunflowers Maggie has helped me plant more sunflower seeds today, she was brilliant, she sat next to me and Upsy Daisy (from In the Night Garden) sat next to her on a mound of spilt compost. Maggie helped me fill the pots with compost, and me managed to cover Upsy Daisy with some too, and then she took each seed and pushed them into the soil, when all 45 (yes 45 – I want to recreate the French sunflower fields in my garden) seeds were planted she watered them in… Bless her… It seems that my 2 ½ year old has more interest than my 5 year old; the only trouble is she loves digging and she keeps trying to dig in my vegetable pots and containers. She is so proud of her activities today that she showed the boys what she had done when they came home.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Prince Capsicum

The threat of the compost bin has worked, I have just checked the seed tray with the capsicum seeds in and I can see two, yes two, little green shoots breaking their way through the soil. SUCCESS, I am thrilled to bits so much so I did a little victory dance across the room ;0)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Photos of progress



Blooming Sunflower

The first sign of life at the bottom of the garden

Progress Report

Still no sign of germination in the Capsicum camp, 8 days to go before they face the compost bin. I would give them longer than this but I need the space and seed tray for seeds that are in date and have more chance of germinating.

All 3 potato bags have foliage appearing now, and I cannot earth up anymore so this is it, it’s down to mother nature now (with a little help from me), and a lot of luck.

I have thinned out the rhubarb seedlings today and re-potted the chosen ones, boy that was difficult selecting the ones to keep and the ones to discard. I’ll let you into a secret the ones that didn’t get potted up I have left in the seed tray in my mini greenhouse I didn't have the heart to chuck them onto the compost bin when they have put all that energy into getting this far. Pathetic I know.

Good news regarding the leggy sunflowers, that so many of you have commented on, you will all be glad to know that they have perked up since being planted into the wall planters and one is also in bloom. I think I might plant some marigolds (or something else) with them to fill in the gaps. What do you think?

Sweetcorn, pumpkin, tomatoes, cucumbers and marigolds are very impressive, I am so proud of these little babies, it is a pleasure to open the greenhouse doors to be greeted by such leafy, healthy plants, even the leggy cabbages are starting to look better, think I shall stick with them and plant them out when they are a bit bigger, I can but try.

I have also been down to the bottom of the garden this afternoon to see what’s happening and the flower bed where I sowed Sunflower seeds, lupins and Delphiniums the other weekend have seedlings appearing, it is just so exciting how everything is starting to do its thing, it’s like finding out you are pregnant then seeing the actual growing evidence on the ultrasound scan.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Be good to Bees

Jack has received a pack of free flower mix seeds today from the Blue Peter campaign to encourage bees in our garden.

I have also ordered some gardening books today for myself (Allotment Month by Month by Alan Buckingham and The Thrifty Gardener: How to Create a Stylish Garden for Next to Nothing by Alys Fowler) and a couple for the children which I am hoping will have projects for us to do to encourage wildlife etc.

Just checked the seed tray with the capsicum in; still no sign of germination after 15 days. I may have to record this one as a failure, I’ll give them another 10 days and then it the compost bin.

Think I might try and swap some of my spare seeds for someone’s fresher capsicums seeds and try again.

Must remember to get some more potting compost.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Spring Watch

Apart from the vicious pigeon that attacked me as I sowed the pea seeds this afternoon, the garden seems to be alive with nature already this year, there are bees busily buzzing around the flowers and blossom, and a frog resting under the shelter of the apple tree amongst the leaves of an unidentified plant (or weed). I also think that there is a family of birds nesting in the honeysuckle, a Robin family in the holly & Ivy and a Sparrow family in the guttering of the house.


I think I am in need of investing wisely in a greenhouse, I have always fancied the idea of having one at the bottom of the garden where mother nature does her magic, whilst Jack Frost and other forces of nature attempt to interfere with little success, and as I squeezed the cucumber and tomato grow bags into my mini greenhouses this afternoon it has reinforced the need a little more, as I’m not so sure how well these little plants will do in here. I’d like to grow something successfully.


I have also planted my leggy sunflowers into wall planters, as they are now more trailing sunflowers rather than giant ones. No laughing please, I’m sure they will bounce back I have given them a feed and spoken nicely to them, I have learnt my lesson not to be so keen with my sowing next year. Lets hope the ones I sowed last week in the flower beds do better and grow straighter.

Another Wet Bank Holiday Monday

The first of the Spring Bank Holidays, and it is wet, cold and grey, grey as far as the eye can see, but to prove I am no longer the fair weather kind of gardener I braved the rain and headed off to plant peas, turnips, beetroots, cabbages and nasturtiums in my famous raised bed.

How impressive does that look to the non-experienced gardener? 

After taking the photo I wrapped it all up with fleece and netting, thought this wise after I was attacked by a wood pigeon whilst planting the pea seeds.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

BBC Dig In

Jack has received his pack of BBC Dig In seeds from the Cbeebies Green Balloon Club, which he is over the moon about and has begun to badger Al for his own raised bed. So today, I sorted him out some containers to grow his vegetables in, drilled additional drainage holes, which impressed him “wow mommy knows how to use daddy’s drill” and we decided to sow his carrots first.

Jack contributed by helping me fill the pot with compost; however, he soon got bored and went inside to watch the telly, so in the end I planted his carrots seeds on my own. Think tomorrow I’ll prepare the containers for him, as I do understand that it is not much fun, and then he can plant the seeds and water them in, the best part using the watering can!

Compost Crumble

Since having this blog I spend a lot of time thinking about what I can write whilst working in my garden, and today was no different, this afternoon I finally filled the wonderful raised bed that Al built for me the other weekend, and whilst I was breaking down the compost by rubbing it through my fingers and sieving it with a soil sieve I realised that gardening is like cooking and that I had spent the afternoon making the topping for a compost crumble, I was even rubbing my tongue along the back of my teeth like I do when I am making the crumble for a rhubarb or apple crumb. I just hope this vegetable patch is as successful as my rhubarb crumbles are, I am so worried that all this effort is going to be in vain, like last year was, mind you like cooking I am following the recipes (sowing and growing advice) for growing the vegetables to the T.  My coffee table is the home for Carol Klein’s Grow Your Own Vegetables book, BBC Gardener’s World Magazines and other gardening books that I’m referring to, there are also several notebooks with notes, plans and ideas scribbled inside them, it’s like being back at University again.


This week I have turned a empty tube of Pringles into a transporter for pumpkin plants, it wasn’t easy let me tell you…

I had arranged to swap 2 pumpkin plants for 20 beetroots seeds and a packet of aubergine seeds with Emma from the swapseeds site, and I came up with what I thought was the perfect and simplest solutions of posting 2 plants, a Pringles tube, Emma gets her plants and my kids get the pleasure of eating the crisps, a win win situation.

Wrong  - like most of my ideas.

 The kids ate the crisps, step 1 of plan complete, step 2 putting the pots containing the plants into the tube, FAILED, the pots were wider than the tube – disaster!

Bright Idea number 2, I’ll make newspaper pots that will fit into the tube, an excellent idea I hear you cry, yes it would have been if the free paper had been delivered on the Wednesday/Thursday night as it normally is (wasn’t delivered till Friday afternoon) so instead I manage to convince Jack to give me his Hay Festival programme for this year to use, finally I had two plants in paper pots. SUCCESS!!

Step 3 putting them in the tube, would you believe it they were to tall to get both into the tube, so do I get another tube of Pringles, perhaps sour cream and chives this time? No need luckily I managed to find two smaller plants, which I then had to make paper pots for. Finally job done, 2 plants in the tube wrapped up in brown paper, labelled fragile, not that the woman in the post office took much notice of this as she dropped the parcel into the bag.

So on Friday, 2 of my little pumpkin plants began a new adventure, via royal mail I just hope they get there ok.

Just had confirmation from Emma that the pumpkin plants have got to her in one piece, thank goodness for that, they are now pictured on her blog "Into the Garden Space". So now the race is on to see who grows the biggest pumpkin this year.