Sunday 26th September 2021 – Grape harvest!

This weekend looks to be the last weekend of summer weather, as next week rain is coming in and the temperature will definitely feel more autumnal. Still we’ve had a lovely Summer, albeit a little wetter than last year and this caused problems with blight on most of my tomatoes and some of my potatoes. But other things thrived like courgettes, onions and sweetcorn. So swings and roundabouts really. But that’s the joy of gardening, you never know what each year will bring, I think that’s why I love it so much.

With Autumn upon us the big tidy up can begin. It’ll be slow to start with as much is still in the ground, but soon it’ll all come at once. Got to fill up the garden waste bin completely before every collection, well we pay for it so I’ve got to get my monies worth out of it. They don’t collect ours all year, they stop just before Christmas and then start again at the beginning of March. Their theory is people don’t garden during the winter months? Excuse me! Surely that’s the busiest time with all the pruning and tidying up. But apparently they know more about gardening than we do. If I have too much garden waste in the garage then I’ll have to book a slot and take it down to the tip and put it in their garden waste there.

Anyway back to the calm of my garden….

I let all the chickens out in the garden to play together. Victoria is showing them who is boss, but I can’t leave them alone while I quickly pop inside because I don’t know what they’ll get up to. The new ones tend to keep together most of the time, rarely going onto the grass. One however is a little braver than the others and jumped up into the utility room, just to see where I was going. Victoria has never even done that. I think little and often is the key to they settling down together, it could take a few weeks but we’ll get there.

For dinner we had pork, so I wanted to harvest some veggies to go with it. For some reason this year I don’t seem to be able to grow any straight carrots. To be honest I don’t mind. These ones however weren’t as wonky as the last lot, but still several legs were on show. I also harvested 4 corns. There are only a couple left now, so I’ll have to pick them soon before they go over. The corn has done really well this year, better than usual. I think they also prefer the cooler wetter summers. So with corn on the cob and crackling from the pork, dinner was a messy affair, but very tasty.

I removed the remaining runner beans and tidied up the cane structure. The structure will be a permanent fixture and next year I’ll grow cucumbers up one side and tomatoes up the other…maybe….that’s the plan so far, but it might change. A couple of the canes had come loose, so I reattached them. Cable ties seem to work well, and are strong. I know they’re not particularly eco friendly, but they’ll last for a very long time and are cheap to get hold of from Screwfix. I got some new coloured solar fairy lights so they are draped over the bamboo structure now. Feels like Christmas in the garden.

Just before I went in at the end of the day Mark and I harvested the grapes. I don’t know what varieties they are because one I got from my auntie and uncle’s garden before they moved to Spain, and the other one was from where I used to work at a garden nursery and didn’t have a label on. I was told to put it on the compost, but I asked if I could take it home instead. Well it’s flourishing in my garden with lots of Claire loving, like all my plants really, as well as my chickens…..oh and the humans in the family of course. This is the best year I’ve ever had with grapes, I managed to get an entire bowl full. I washed them, and now they’re in the freezer and over the winter when I have a little more time (hahaha), I’ll make some grape jelly from them. Now I just need to tidy up the grapevines which are growing over the metal arch and then they’ll be ready for next year. I have one vine planted each side of the arch and wanted them to grow up each side and meet in the middle which is exactly what they doing. I’m so proud of them.

Well that was it for today, it’ll see what other sorting and tidying I can do this week when I get home from work.

Happy gardening xxx

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Canals, Chickens and Courgettes!

Well the title says it all really, but I’ll go into a little more detail for you because I know you’ll want to hear it.

I finally had a little weeks holiday. It was a long time coming, and this particular holiday had to be postponed a couple of times because of that other C word…..no not that one although I felt like saying that word quite a few times, but the other one.

But finally my little holiday had arrived. I didn’t go with the family, but 7 other bell ringing friends. So after leaving instructions for what to eat for dinner and how to look after Victoria (our chicken), off I went to have a leisurely time on a narrowboat, and a little bit of ringing as well. Look you can’t go on a holiday with 8 bell ringers and not go ringing it’s just not normal.

Our first ring on Sunday morning for their service.

I had never been on a narrowboat before so this was all very new for me. Once you go used to how little space there was (which didn’t take long) then it was fine. Our boat was called Louise and was 70 foot long, which seems incredibly long when you have to drive, or pilot it from the back, there is a lot of boat in front of you. I’m glad to say that when I piloted the boat for a very brief time I was told I did very well. I think they were being nice, although I didn’t crash into anything, so I guess I did alright. Near the end of the holiday I even managed to pilot the boat in and out of two locks which I was very impressed with.

Concentrating very hard on not crashing into anything.

Everyone mucked in and helped with various things, it all worked out very well. The weather was brilliant, with most of the days hot and sunny. We did have one day where it poured with rain, but most of us had bought water proofs and I had my wellies and a full set of waterproofs (including my sexy waders) so I was lovely and dry.

Just a gentle sail along the canal in the sunshine.

In the evenings after dinner we played various games, many were new to me, but I got the hang of fairly quickly. I think my favourite was Rummikub, I was even taught how to play poker, I did make sure I could keep my clothes on for that particular game.

The gentle rocking of the boat made you sleep soundly and in the morning we all woke up at various times to have breakfast and then were usually off sailing again about 10.30am. Sometimes we had a cooked breakfast which was amazing, and other times it was toast and cereal.

As the boat was chugging along, if you wanted to get off and have a walk then you waited until you got to a bridge because it narrowed a little and the boat slowed and off you hopped. I did that a couple of times. You just walked along the canal path and when you wanted to get back on the boat you just waited until you reached another bridge and then hopped back on. No one ended up falling in the water this year so that was a bonus.

We rang at 4 different towers, which were all beautiful bells to ring. I know many of you will wonder what I mean by beautiful bells. Well some bells sound fabulous, but are a bugger to ring and others are easy to ring but sound awful. But all these towers the bells sounded fabulous and were easy to ring. It’s a bit like a car, some cars are much easier to drive than others. After ringing for 35 years you know when bells are good ones….Yes I’m that old!

Brinklow church. I think these were my favourite.

When I returned home after some lovely welcome home cuddles from Mark and the kids I went out to see Victoria. She gave me a look as if to say “Where on earth have you been?” and wandered off. She soon came round and we had a little cuddle and a wander round the garden and greenhouses.

Everything in the garden looked ok, although some plants in the greenhouses had been over watered, so I quickly sorted them out. One thing I didn’t put on the list before I went away was to harvest the courgettes. Silly me, I thought the humans would look and pick some, but as it wasn’t in their job description they didn’t do it. Before I left for my little gallivant on the canals, my courgettes were very tiny, a little bigger than my thumb, but by the time I returned they had grown a little larger….just a little larger.

Yes they are courgettes, although I think they have ideas of grandeur.

On the Sunday we took our son off to university. It’s his first year and we needed to get him settled into his new room. I was fine until I hugged him goodbye and then the memories of dropping him off for his first day a nursery and primary school came flooding back. It doesn’t matter how old they are, he’ll still be my little baby, even at 6 foot 1.5 inches! When he comes back for Christmas I expect he’ll be taller still.

The following weekend Mark and I drove to Aylesford to pick up 6 new little friends for Victoria. This time we got them from Fresh Start for Hens. I was very surprised how many feathers they had, and they’re not as flitty as normal. Before we put them in their carrying box I popped in to the pet store to get a few bits. As I left the store, one chicken flew up onto the verrander clearly trying to escape. The lady below couldn’t get to her, so I picked her up and said “Well you’re coming home with me then.” I walked down the steps and towards Mark. “I’ve got one!” I said.

They have all settled in very well and as I write this they have had their second lot of worming medicine, just 1 more days to go. And I’ve rubbed in some louse powder into their feathers, just incase. They’re laying very well and have had a little wander around the garden. We do have names for them all, but they all look so similar it’s going to be difficult, so I may just call them all “my darlings”. One does have a slight limp, not sure why, her legs feel fine, but I’ll see how she goes she may just have pulled something, so at the moment she’s called “limpy”.

Our new little ones.

It’ll be a case of introducing them together gradually because I can’t cope with any fighting. They all seem very happy and chatty with each other and can see each other all the time so hopefully that’ll help when they all finally come together.

More tidying of the garden this week, the weather is turning more autumnal now and various veggies are finishing, some are still going but will finish in about a months time, but others still have lots more growing to do.

Have a wonderful week and weekend and I’ll see you soon xx

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Blooming flowers!

There’s only a month of Summer left, then we’ll be into Autumn. The weather clearly has other ideas and has decided that Summer has finished because, even though it’s very humid, still the clouds and rain stop the sun from shining. But some plants are loving this sort of weather.

Yes I’m harvesting all sorts from the garden, and spaces are now appearing where veggies were once growing, but the chickens seem to enjoy having dust baths in these places. The days are getting shorter and we have to draw the curtains earlier than normal.

I am still wearing my shorts during the day at work, but the grass is moist first thing in the morning. There are loads of upside and the garden hasn’t finished looking beautiful just yet.

The Hydrangeas,

Roses,

Marigolds,

Nasturtiums,

And Fuchsias are in full bloom.

The Chrysanthemums are just starting to flower.

There is still loads of life left in the garden and still loads more colour to see.

Soon the mass tidy up will arrive, although I’m starting that with some things already. Now is the time to be ordering your Spring flowering bulbs, or you can go and have a look in your local garden centre, but they may not have then quite yet, so be patient.

Enjoy all the colours that are in your garden at the moment, but make sure you make the most of the warmth we have because soon it’ll be too cold to sit outside in the evening, unless you’re wearing a blanket.

Take care,

Claire xx

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Monday 9th August 2021 – Rain Stopped play

Now I’ll work in rain, but not heavy rain. We were woken up before the alarm goes off at 6.30am by rain hammering down on the Velux windows. Would it clear by the time I was due to leave at 8.45am? Well that was anyone’s guess. I watched the weather forecast on BBC Breakfast and apparently it was supposed to. However, the BBC app on my phone said otherwise. The rain did stop, but then started again, just out of spite as I was leaving home. I arrived at my clients house, and we had a little discussion about what to do. We all came to the sensible conclusion that I should call it quits and go home, so I did.

I had plenty to do at home so the day wouldn’t be wasted. I was calling it a “Bonus Day at home”. If the weather dried up in the afternoon then I would go out in my garden and see what needed to be done out there……there’s always plenty to do anyway.

After all the usual household chores, catching up on various emails and other things, I made some chocolate cornflake cakes. These would hopefully be set in time for lunch. Then a few more household things and before I knew it, it was time for lunch.

By the time lunch was over the skies had cleared and the sun came out, so I put on my wellies and went out in my garden to have a play.

There’s always something to do in the garden, so firstly I harvested some beans and carrots for dinner that evening. I mixed all the carrots seeds together so when you dig up a load you get a good mixture. They all seem to be doing really well so far this year, and the first ones that came up were what I would call proper sized. I’m sure Lottie and Dottie would be very proud.

Then I came across a huge yellow one. The only way to describe it was that it was the size of a normal courgette! And yes I found some normal sized courgettes as well.

I also harvested a few spring onions and cleared away more blighted tomatoes.

All in all a good afternoons work. And if the weather had held off and I’d be working I wouldn’t have got these things done. So definitely a ‘Bonus Day’.

Don’t forget my Claire’s Allotment Essentials Book. It has all the information you need.

Happy Gardening,

Claire xxx

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Sunday 8th August 2021 – Now don’t break again!

The structure that I lovingly constructed for my beans was holding together very nicely until we had the last lot of wind (which had nothing to do with me eating any sprouts). Because the runner beans had grown so thick on one side it was unevenly weighted. Therefore the wind broke all the twine and both sides had drifted apart. Fortunately no canes broke, but I needed something strong to hold them back together again.

I don’t like using stuff that doesn’t biodegrade in the garden, but at the last minute all I could think about using, and what was very easy to get hold of, was a load of cable ties from Screwfix.

The ones I got were long enough to wrap round the canes twice and then pull them tight enough so hopefully they won’t drift apart again. I think when the beans have finished I’ll leave the structure in place and will maybe grow cucumbers or cherry tomatoes up them next year. You should never grow beans in the same place year after year, so I’ll have to put them somewhere else next year.

Emily, my daughter helped hold the canes in place while I fastened them together, so that was a great help. Now don’t break apart again!

In amongst the sweetcorn on the right of the above photo I have pumpkins and butternut squash growing. I spied several squashed and a couple of pumpkins. I’ll have to wait until all their leaves go brown to see exactly what is growing underneath, but that’ll be a lovely surprise to look forward to.

Once that was all done I went to tidy up the potatoes in the buckets. They’re not ready yet, but their foliage has just gone mad. And with the tomatoes all getting blight, and the same virus can spread to potatoes as well, I though I would remove much of the leaves and stems just incase. The potatoes will still grow, (although they don’t grow as big in buckets), but at least if the top parts of the leaves have caught blight, now I’ve removed them it won’t spread to the potatoes themselves.

Where I was on Wednesday some local tree surgeons A Bird (and yes I’m fully aware of the irony here, but his name is Alex) were cutting down a couple of trees just up the road from where I was working. I know the lads very well and asked what they did with the chips. They usually take them back to the yard and then dispose of them somehow. I need some more woodchips for the path at the back of my garden, between the large raised beds and in the chicken run, plus a few other little places. So I asked them if the wouldn’t mind dropping them off outside my back gate. I’m pleased to say they were very happy to and did it free of charge. Basically it meant that they would end up taking their truck back empty which was much easier for them. They would drive past my house on their way, so they didn’t have to take a detour.

So late this afternoon Mark and I moved a load of it, there’s still more to move, but I’ll do that this week. We did a load of the back path, and that now looks much tidier and neater but didn’t quite finish. I left a wheelbarrow load by the chicken run, but didn’t put it in. The chips create lots of heat inside the mound, and I suspected it would be too hot for their little feet. So once I’d tucked them in for the night and closed their door, I spread the chips in their run so they would cool down and be fine in the morning. I’m sure they’ll enjoy scratching in them tomorrow.

I picked some french and runner beans, as well as the first head of broccoli to go with dinner. I also tidied up the little square beds at the back and pulled up some more blight ridden tomatoes. It’s been a funny year, I’m not sure what to make of it quite yet. I’ll be harvesting some carrots soon, and some of them have rather sizeable tops so they should be good. But only time will tell.

I’ll keep you posted on anything I do.

Take care and happy gardening xxx

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Sunday 1st August 2021 – The ups and downs of gardening in the UK!

Being British we love to talk about the weather, it’s just one of those things we do. Many of us are never happy whatever the weather brings. It’s either too cold (but it’s the winter so what do you expect, put a few extra layers on), or too hot (again it’s the summer and that’s what happens, drink something cold and buy a fan). It rains when people don’t want it to (I must admit sometimes when it pours and I’m working I do get cross but I can’t do anything about it), and then sometimes it gets very windy (we live on a small island that is right next to the Atlantic ocean so it’s gonna happen). Stop complaining about the weather all the time and just live your life and enjoy your life. You only get one life so make the most of it and stop moaning about something that really doesn’t effect you that much. Yes you might get wet when it rains or sweaty when it’s hot, but there is always someone worse off that you. Ok so moan over, here’s what I got up to today and how the weather has effected my plants.

Last summer was long, hot and dry, which was perfect for certain veggies but not so great for others. This summer has been humid and damp so the veggies that were happy last year are not so happy this year and vice versa.

Now that the tops of my Exhibition onions have now drooped over they are ready to harvest. These I sowed from seed in my greenhouses in January/February time I think. Yes it was very cold, but I put on loads of layers and out I went. Getting outside in all weathers is very good for your mental health and immune system. Nothing worse than being stuck inside all the time that’s why you get sniffles. No one in our house (and there are 5 adults) has had any sort of cold or sore throat for nearly 3 years now. I’m putting that down to fresh air, be it cold or not.

So back to the onions. I put on my very sexy pair of waterproof waders. Mark said I look like Mario from Super Mario. I suppose I do as I had my pink cap on as well. The onions came up fairly easily, some needed a little help with a trowel. I shook much of the soil from the bottom and trimmed off some of the leaves and then put 6 in a tray. I also removed any weeds that were growing between them, so the patch of soil is now clear and empty, Might plant a few more lettuce there now.

This video was from a couple of years ago and therefore weren’t the onions I sowed this year, but the process of harvesting is exactly the same.

Once I’d harvested them all, I put the trays in one of my greenhouses so they can dry for about 6 weeks before I store them. You can use them straight away, but if you store them straight away they’ll go mouldy and rot. Each Christmas our postman is given a sack of onions from the local farmer, which he gives to me as they don’t eat them in his house (don’t ask me why). I’ve got about half a dozen left from that sack and with all the onions I’ve harvested in the last week they should keep us going until he gets another sack this Christmas. Brilliant, not had to buy onions for a year!

It’s difficult to see the size, but apart from the odd one or two that are fairly small, most are the size of my hand.

The various fruits and veggies in the greenhouses are doing ok. The Okra is just starting to flower. The first of the aubergines has just started to appear, there are loads of flowers so hopefully more fruits soon. I have about half a dozen melon fruits, all various sizes with the larges about the size of a tennis ball. And the tomatoes are starting to ripen, although not as well as last year.

Gardening is full of ups and downs, depending what the weather is like, depends how various plants do. Some like rain, others do not. The weather this summer has be warm, wet and humid, great because I don’t have to water often, but this spells disaster for tomatoes growing outside. It looks like practically every one of my outside tomato plants has got blight!

It’s very sad as they were full of flowers and loads of little green fruits were just about to grow. There’s nothing you can do to save a tomato plant when it has blight. You can’t save it. You just have to pull it up, remove any fruits that fall to the ground, and either burn it or throw it away. Under no circumstances put it on your compost heap, because this will make the virus spread throughout the compost and when you spread the compost on the ground it will put the virus everywhere. Mine have gone in the garden waste bin and will be taken away and burnt.

You’ll notice brown markings firstly on the stems, they look like a light coloured bruise and then get darker. Within a couple of days more patches will appear on the trusses where your tomatoes are growing and the leaves will get blotches on them and curl up. Before you know it the tops of any tomatoes will go brown and wrinkly. If you notice blight on one plants and remove it immediately you may stop it from spreading to the other plants, but check each plant every day and remove any infected ones.

If you have any tomatoes that are not effected then take them off the plant and put them on a metal tray and cover with a tea towel. They will slowly turn red, but make sure you check them twice a week and if any get brown patches on them get rid of them.

I’ll have to think of another plan for next year as the ones in the greenhouses aren’t doing that well this year either.

The same Blight virus can pass to potatoes as well, so make sure you don’t plant either in that space for at least a year. Other veggies like brassicas, cucurbits or alliums will be fine.

But there is a silver lining to the sadness of the tomatoes, at least I can now reach the courgettes much easier. And they’re doing amazingly this year. They seem to think they’re marrows, but I can assure you they aren’t. These seem to be very happy with the humid wet weather, and I’m picking them and we’re eating loads for dinners. They’re great stuffed and even if they do get too big, they don’t get bitter like marrows can.

I like to cut them lengthways, scoop out the seeds, fill the void with mince, chicken, sausages, what ever you fancy really. Top with breadcrumbs and cheese, wrap in baking parchment and foil and roast in the oven for about an hour. Very tasty. Some I will cut up into chunks and freeze for later on.

The chickens came out for a quick play in the garden, and we had a little cuddle on the grass. Mark caught me talking to them, but I don’t mind. They both love a cuddle and will sit very happily on my legs and make happy noises. Soon the skies came over very grey and dark so I put them back in the run and not long after I got back inside the rains came. Not just a little sprinkle, but a full on downpour. The patio started to flood, and out the front of the house the water was running down the gravel drive. After about 15 minutes it stopped and the sun came out again.

Well that was this weekend, let’s see what mischief I can get up to this week after work. Another full week gardening in clients gardens, but that’s the way, aha, aha, I like it, aha, aha.

Have a fabulous week and Happy gardening!

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Sunday 25th July 2021 – Harvesting the first of the onions!

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’m sorry for the gap, but the weekends have been super busy and it’s basically it’s been weeding, watering, weeding, side shooting, weeding, feeding and more weeding. Not a very interesting thing to show you.

But this weekend I’ve been able to do something else and that is starting to harvest various bits. The Runner beans and French beans I’m starting to harvest, and they taste amazing. I’ve harvested this years garlic, although I wasn’t that impressed with it this year, but it’s ok, maybe my standards are just too high. They are now drying in the garage on the metal shelves and I’ll leave them there for about 4-6 weeks before I bundle them up. You can use them before they’re dry, so I’ll keep popping out to get a bulb.

The next job was to harvest my Broad Beans. They did very well this year and I have been harvesting them as and when we needed them. But the plants have now started to loose their green colour and some of the pods have started to go brown so I need to get them all out and harvest all the beans. Once I’ve harvested them, I’ll give them a wash and then put them in a bag and freeze them. I don’t blanche them before freezing, to be honest I don’t have the time. Then when I need some I’ll just take out what I need and put straight in the dinner I’m cooking.

This video I made 9 years ago so please don’t be confused by the background which was when I had an allotment, but the principle of harvesting is exactly the same.

My Courgette plants are whizzing along very well. I always check and see how they’re doing when I go and feed the chickens in the morning. The fruits were about 3 inches long, so not really large enough to harvest. For a couple of days I didn’t look at them and they must have known because they suddenly grew and I harvest one that was 12 inches long! Maybe it thought it was a marrow. So I sliced it horizontally, scooped out the seeds and filled it with some mince, onions and tomatoes. On the top I put a mixture of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Wrap loosely in foil and roast in the oven for about an hour. It was very tasty. There are another couple of large ones still on the plants so I’ll harvest those, cut them in chunks and freeze them. To stop courgette going soft when you take it out the freezer it’s best to cook from frozen and not let them thaw out before.

And finally I’ve started harvesting some of my Onions. I sowed some from sets (little baby onions) and some from seeds. The ones from the sets are now ready. You know when your onions are ready to harvest because the stems fall over. You can leave them in the ground until the stems start to go brown, but once the stems have toppled then the onions won’t do any more growing.

This video was filmed 2 years ago and so far my onions are much larger, but it shows you how I harvest mine.

The two varieties grown from sets are now drying in my greenhouses. They’ll need to dry for about 6 weeks or so, but if you need to use any you can. You only need to dry them if you’re going to store them in a sack. If you don’t have a greenhouse then any cool dry place will do, a garage or cellar is perfect…..but who had a cellar these days? If I had one it would be full of wine and beer. I’d most probably be making my own beer and wine, maybe even some cider.

So that was this weekend and the first part of the week. Let’s see what next weekend will bring…..more weeding I expect.

Don’t forget my Claire’s Allotment Gardening Essentials Book Park 1 is available HERE. Everything you need to know to help you on your gardening journey.

And Lottie and Dottie are still available on HERE.

Happy gardening xxx

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Monday 31st May 2021 – Bank Holiday – Sun, Sea, Sand and Soil…..

It’s the last Bank Holiday until August (that’s in England anyway), so as the sun was shining I wasn’t going to waste any of it.

We packed up a picnic and headed to the beach. Since we’ve lived by the sea we promised ourselves that we would all take a few hours out of our busy lives to picnic on the beach as often as we could, weather permitting of course. We didn’t manage to picnic many times last year due to Covid restrictions, but now that some restrictions have been lifted we are able to chill on the pebbles once again.

When we arrived the tide was way out and the sand was showing. I went for a little quick paddle of course. The sea was calm and because it was shallow it was very warm. I’m sure if I ventured out further into deeper waters then it would have been very cold indeed. But as I had some 3/4 length trousers on, and no spare clothes I wasn’t going to go out far.

Just sitting on the beach reading a book is very soothing and calming. No worries, just switch off for a couple of hours and enjoy the fresh air. Read a book and listen to the waves lap onto the pebbles. Bliss.

The tide was on its way in, and soon the sand disappeared. But where we were on the pebbles was raised up so we didn’t have to worry.

We enjoyed our picnic and chatted to each other about various things. The breeze was blowing in from the NW so had a little chill on it, but you didn’t need a coat, just a jumper.

We stayed for a couple of hours (living so close by you don’t need to make a day of it), and then packed up and when back home.

The afternoon I had planned on being out in the garden, so the first thing I did was to mow the grass. With all the rain this month the grass grew really long during “No mow May”. Yes I know it’s still May, but I’m working on the 1st June so won’t be able to mow the grass then and it’s getting really long. I think I ended up emptying the grass basket about half a dozen times, and I’ve not got a huge amount of grass to cut.

Once that was done then it was time to see how many more plants I could get out in the veg patch. Sorting the garden and greenhouses is a bit like doing a Sudoku puzzle at the moment. Do a little bit here, then move that there. That can now be done, but first I have to do that! So complicated. I’m so glad the chickens and the plants don’t think I’ve lost my mind as I spend most of the time talking to myself in the garden.

I managed to plant out a load more tomatoes. This year I’m growing some outside and some inside the greenhouses, it’ll be interesting to see what difference that makes. To give the tomatoes a little more support, I’ve made a wigwam of 4 canes, I’m hoping that they’ll support each other, but only time will tell.

In this video I suggest 2 litre pots but 3 litre pots would be better as they’ll give the plants more room to spread their roots. But if 2 litre pots are all you have they will do just fine.

When planting tomato plants outside in the soil, make sure you dig a deep hole. The hole needs to be deep enough so the first “true leaves” are just above the soil, but anything below the first set of true leaves is below the soil.

Start to feed your tomatoes once the flowers start to appear but not any sooner. If you feed before the flowers appear then you’ll just get a mass of leaves.

I also planted the sweetcorn in between the pumpkins and squashes. They are still a little on the small side, but I’m sure they’ll be fine.

The snap peas are growing well and are really thinking about producing some flowers. Hopefully if this lovely warm weather keeps going then I’ll be harvesting the first peas in 4-6 weeks.

Lettuces are also nearly ready and the next set of seeds that I sowed a while ago are germinating.

So everything seems to be growing well. Various bits like the carrots, and spring onions are a little slower than normal, but hopefully they’ll catch up now the weather is warmer.

A very productive Bank Holiday Monday, I hope you’ve had a fabulous time as well.

Happy gardening!!

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Sunday 23rd May 2021 – Time to start getting everything in.

I’ve checked the BBC weather app and it looks like we are not due anymore frost which is brilliant. This means a couple of things…..firstly Summer is very nearly here thank goodness, and secondly I can start to plant out my tender crops!! Yay!!

Tender crops are plants that don’t like frost and will wilt and die if there is any about, so beans, tomatoes, courgettes etc. All the plants that on the label it says “Do not plant out until all risk of frost has gone from your area”. Yup those are the ones.

So with no frost forecast and the night time temperature not getting below 6 degrees I could start getting some out today.

Having constructed my bean frame a few days earlier I decided to start with some climbing runner beans. These have been growing amazingly well in my greenhouse for the last 3 weeks and are already about 12 inches tall.

This video was from 5 years ago, and I’m planting out French beans, but the principle is the same for either French or Runner beans.

When I sowed my beans this year I didn’t sow them in half toilet rolls, I sowed 2 seeds in square plastic pots.

I also planted our my dwarf French and Runner beans. These don’t need staking and are perfect for either growing in pots or as I have done this year planted them around the outside of the raised beds so they’ll fill in any little gaps between the other plants. They seem happy so far and because they’re at the edge of the bed they’ll be easy to harvest.

The next job was to fill up the space next to the Runner beans, so I planted out some pumpkins and butternut squash. I was also going to plant out the sweetcorn, but it wasn’t growing as well as I had expected and they needed a couple more weeks in the greenhouse, so I decided to leave some space so when they were big enough I could just pop them in.

I also planted out a couple of Gourds and courgettes, but these need to be planted out in exactly the same way.

The Kale then needed to go in, I’ve not got enough room in the cage with the other brassicas, so they’re having to grow outside the cage. I’ve put some loose netting over the top, so hopefully that’ll keep the butterflies off them.

The onions and and leeks are growing well and everything else seems to be happy in my little piece of calm.

Hope everything is going well for you all as well this season. Finally I feel like Summer is here, let’s hope it stays for a while.

Happy gardening!

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Wednesday 19th May 2021 – An unexpected day at home.

Today I was only supposed to be working from 9am-1pm and was planning on being in my garden when I got home. But first thing this morning the heavens opened and it was going to be one of those on and off heavy rain shower days again. So having spoken to the client I was supposed to be visiting that day, we both decided that it would be better to take the morning off. It was good that I did, because it did exactly what it said on the tin.

So in the morning Mark was going to the Spitfire Museum for some research and asked if I wanted to come as well…he would buy me a cup of tea and a nibble, but only if I was a good girl…….uuuuuummmmmmmm?

So off we went together. I know it seems silly, but I felt naughty going out somewhere on a week day. Felt like I was skiving off school (which I never did of course). Going in somewhere and looking around that wasn’t a shop to buy essentials. And then sitting down in a tea room having a toasted tea cake and a cup of tea without a face covering on. Felt quite weird.

It was lovely to get out and do something sociable, hopefully more like this as the weeks go one.

The afternoon was spent in the garden, and then rushing into the greenhouses frequently when the rains came. Firstly I managed to get up the structure for my beans to climb. I’m trying something different this year and creating an arch between two of the raised beds. Hopefully I’ll be able to still walk underneath and harvest the beans. Make sure that your structure is very sturdy, as plants laden with beans are very heavy, and if your bamboo canes are a bit brittle then they’re likely to snap. I’ve reinforced the structure with 2 horizontal canes on each side and when it was done I gave it a little wobble to see how much it would move. I’m pleased to say it seems very sturdy. It was tricky trying to hold the canes at the top and tie them at the same time, so I borrowed Emily to help.

The beans won’t be planted out until the end of May/beginning of June, even though some are ready now.

Then it was time to start getting my brassicas planted out in one of the brassica cages. I still need to replace the nylon netting with wire netting, but that’ll have to be done another day. The most important thing was to plant out my brassicas now. I cleared the few weeds and raked the soil. The chicken had been playing in that area for a while, so to surface of the soil was well scratched up. I put all the trays with the various brassicas in the cage, and decided where each variety was going to go. I dug a hole for the first plant and put it in, and then guess what? The heavens opened again. I quickly dashed in the greenhouses and sorted out a few bits and pieces while the rain passed.

All brassicas, whether you have cabbages, calabrese (broccoli), sprouting broccoli, sprouts, cauliflowers…..you get the idea, need to be planted out in exactly the same way. Here’s a video from a couple fo years ago.

Once the rain stopped I went back onto the cage and this time managed to plant in all the rest of the brassicas before the rain clouds came again. The soil was damp and more rain was due so I didn’t water them. If your soil is dry then give your plants a good water in. You’ll also need to protect them from slugs and snails, so whatever way you feel is right for you. Because mine are in raised beds, I tend not to have any problems with these little pests. I closed the door to the brassica cage and hopefully they’ll stay safe from all those insects and pests that like them so much.

So rather an unorthodox day and not completely as I had planned, but still I got lots done.

Much more in the garden this coming weekend, but I’ll keep you posted on everything I do.

Take care and happy gardening!

Claire xx

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