Monday 3rd May 2021 – Lots to celebrate today!!

Good afternoon! Well I am pleased to report that I had very mild side effects from my covid vaccination, how I managed that I don’t know, must be the red hair, we have special powers you know. Hopefully when I have my second jab in about 12 weeks time I will sail through just as easily. I was a little achy, but just from my knees down to my ankles. I felt tired, so had a little nap for 2 hours late afternoon, but nothing to stop me going through a load of emails. My head started to feel a little “upset”, but a regularly took paracetamol and ibuprofen and that seemed to make my aches go away and my head feel happy again. But the weirdest feeling I had was that my head felt like it was in a goldfish bowl, not wet and with fish swimming by all the time, but that spaced out feeling. To be honest it was really quite nice. But with that feeling I wouldn’t have wanted to drive anywhere and my brain did feel a little foggy as well.

So I spent the day, yes in my pj’s, catching up on various things on the computer and watching various things on the TV. I did watch a film, but my brain is still quite foggy and I can’t remember what I watched. What did I watch? Hang on let me go downstairs to have a look…..Knives Out, that was it.

This morning when I woke up I felt nearly normal, I haven’t felt completely normal for a very long time, so it’s the best I’ll get at the moment. My knees only started the ache again at lunchtime, so I had another couple of paracetamol and they were fine in about an hour.

I decided that I wouldn’t push myself too hard today as well, so after pottering around in the house this morning, I went out in the garden this afternoon. I didn’t do any hard digging, but I did manage to get the last of the sowing done which is very exciting.

I sowed the last of the flower seeds I have so some Honesty “Purple and White Mixed” as well as some Cleome or some people call Spider Flower. It looks and smells like Marijuana but is totally legal. I guess that’s the closest I’ll ever get to having something in my garden that is a bit suspect.

Now that it’s May I can sow my French and Runner beans. I always sow them the first week of May which gives them 3-4 weeks of growing time before they can be planted outside. I live in the South on the UK, and any tender crops can go out from the beginning of June as we won’t get any frosts after that date. If you live further North, then work back 3-4 weeks from your last frost date and sow yours then.

I find that they’re about 6-8 inches tall when they go outside, which is the perfect size and haven’t started to twist around each other by then. My greenhouses are getting very full and various plants like the lettuce and brassicas could go out in a couple of weeks time, but it’s going to be tight for space soon.

I sowed various beans and planted 2 or 3 French bean seeds per square pot and just 2 Runner bean seeds per pot. Don’t plant them together, I did mine in diagonal corners. When you come to plant them out, don’t separate then, they’re quite happy to grow together. Here are the ones I’ve done:

French Beans – Two Dwarf varieties “Mascotte” and “Safari (Kenyan Bean)”. The dwarf varieties don’t need a structure to climb they are self supporting. If you’re short on space then these are perfect, they can also be grown in containers as well. And then a climbing variety “Blue Lake”. These will need a structure to climb up so in a few weeks time I’ll decide where they’re going and make a wigwam. You must make sure that the structure is very stable as the beans will get very heavy and if you suddenly get strong winds then they will blow over. It’s happened to me before.

Runner Beans – Again you can get some dwarf varieties of these as well. The variety I have, I’ve had for a few years so don’t know if they still do it. I think it was an experimental seed as it’s just called “TZ1111”. I also have 2 climbing varieties, the first call “Guinness Record” which I grew last year and they produce very long pods, the other “Scarlet Emperor”, from what I remember are very prolific. Again I sowed these 2 seeds per pot.

Here’s a little video I made last year to help you on your way.

I think I’m done for the day, time to stop and sit down with a cup of tea and watch some telly before I have to start dinner. Feeling a little tired again, but not enough to have a nap. If you’re yet to have your vaccinations just be prepared to take a couple of days off. Don’t fight through it like I always used to do when I was ill, it’ll last longer and it’ll be worse. I know it’s easy for me to say, but British people have always had the view that we must drug ourselves up and carry on whatever. It just doesn’t work. Listen to your body and do what it says. If Covid has taught us anything it’s if you don’t feel well, be it a cold, the flu or anything else then take some medication, snuggle up under a blanket, watch your favourite films or binge watch something on Netflix. Hopefully someone will be able to bring you food and drinks and do all the house chores. You’ll recover faster, and then you can get back to work sooner.

Take care everyone, Summer is on its way and freedom is within our grasp. We can see friends and family very soon, I’ve not seem my sister or parents since February last year! But soon we will be able to get together and hug.

Until then be safe, be kind and carry on gardening!

Love Claire xxx

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Saturday 1st May 2021 – Preparing for a day in bed!

It’s not usual that you can plan ahead for when you’re going to have to spend a day in bed, because you never know when you’re going to be ill. But later this evening I am having my first Covid jab and knowing how it wiped out my husband for an entire day was starting to worry me a little.

At this time of year there is a lot to do in the garden and greenhouses, and knowing that I most probably wouldn’t be able to go out and play was making me slightly anxious.

I know the jab is essential and I wasn’t not going to have it, but I needed to get everything prepared just incase.

So before I went to go and ring some bells for someone’s wedding, I thoroughly watered everything in the greenhouses. I have got some seeds just starting to germinate, and they need all my attention at the moment. The larger plants would be ok if they get a little dry, but the baby seedlings would shrivel up and die. I also gave any seedlings that I’d sown directly in the soil a good water as well. We have been promised rain several times, but so far nothing has come (I don’t think 6 drops counts). Apparently we are due some on Monday evening, but it’s likely to fizzle out before it gets to us. I hope I’m proven wrong.

The chickens came out to play in their brassica cage for a while and had a lovely dust bath together, flicking soil all over the place. They are very happy little girlies, although BB gets a bit sad when Victoria sleeps in her favourite spot. Bless her.

See you after the jab and I’ll let you know how it goes…….

Ok, so my jab went well, I went straight in and didn’t have to queue at all. In fact no one else was in there, apart from the medical people. The lady giving me my jab was very lovely asking how I was feeling and did I have any concerns. She told me to take 2 paracetamol as soon as I got home and then more if I needed it, with Ibuprofen, making sure I obeyed the doses on the packets.

I had to make sure I drank loads (non alcoholic of course) although I was allowed a beer with dinner, and to completely rest tomorrow and until I feel better.

The injection itself just felt like someone pushing a finger on my arm, and my arm felt heavy, but I walked out and to the car and went home.

As soon as I got home I put my pjs on and they won’t come off again until at least Monday morning.

See you on the other side, and I’m hoping that any side effects won’t be too bad. I think it’s the banger of a head ache that some people have had that is bothering me the most.

If you can’t read the writing on my card I had the AZ.

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Sunday 25th April 2021 – All floaty light!

Thank you everyone for all your kind words regarding my latest migraine, I found out many new things, one being that bananas can bring on attacks. I love bananas, they’re my favourite all year round fruit. I’ve decided to stop eating them for a month to see what happens, and if I don’t get a migraine at all in that time then I’ll have to find another favourite fruit that isn’t too expensive.

I was out in the garden again today as I still had more seeds to sow. Let’s begin at the beginning and try to get to the end.

Flowers were first- some annual Poppies “Lady Bird” which are just so beautiful and delicate. You can save the seeds and then sow some more the following year. Or you can just let them self seed and see what they do. I think the seed heads of poppies do look beautiful. Then onto some Delphiniums “Belladonna Mixed”. These are beautiful and are perennials so will come back year after year. They give height to your garden and the most amazing colours. The bees love the flowers as well. And then finally a “Perennial Flower Mix”. There are all sorts in here from Foxgloves, Geums, Aquilegias and loads more. If you want to create a cottage garden feel then these are perfect.

This video I made last year and covers so many of the seeds I sowed today, so take a look…

Then a little bit of Chicory “Rossa di Trevisco”. I grew some last year and it was very tasty. Great sauteed with cabbage and onions.

The next lot of seeds were sown straight into the soil. A few more Radish “Largo de Mallorca”, these ones are from Spain. The closest I can find in the uk are “Long Scarlett”. Whatever variety of radish you have, they all need to sown in the same way.

Then a few lines of Carrots “Purple Sun” and “Rainbow”, but again all Carrots seeds need to be sown in the same way.

Lottie and Dottie have already sown theirs and are getting very excited. If you need any help their books will be perfect for you. Click HERE to find their books on Etsy.

Beetroot also need to be sown directly in the ground. This year I’m growing “Chioggia” which I just love. Don’t worry if some of the seeds are close together they won’t mind at all.

And finally the last lot of seeds I sowed were Sweetcorn “Lark”. You can either sow your seeds directly out into the soil, but the local wildlife may find them before they get chance to germinate. Personally I sow them in little square pots.

I sowed 2 seeds per pot, you can either sow them North/South, or West/East, or as I have done diagonally. Sweetcorn needs to grow in a block and not a straight line so make sure you do your sums first. I’ve got 15 pots, so I’ll block mine 3 by 5. If you get 2 plants per pot, don’t bother separating them, they’ll grow quite happily together.

I know some people soak their seeds for 24 hours before sowing them, but I never have, and even when I worked in a garden nursery we never did. But if it’s something you like to do then by all means stick with what works best for you.

Don’t forget I have a Claire’s Allotment Essentials Volume 1 book, click HERE for more details. You’ll find all the information you need to help you on your growing journey.

Take care and happy gardening!

Love Claire xxx

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Saturday 24th April 2021 – Gardening to try and ease the brain.

My brain decided to be very, very angry on Friday. So angry in fact that I had to go and see a doctor and get some very strong tablets. But even those didn’t make it go. I’m sure like many of you who suffer from migraines you’ll understand what I felt like. Not wanting to go into too much detail, this one was particularly bad and I kept having to chat with the loo. This one even stopped me going to work, so I had to email the client I was supposed to be going to that day, they were very understanding. I tend to get them regularly if I’m unlucky 3-4 times a month, but if I’m lucky just twice a month. I put it down to that time in a woman’s life, but I started to get them just before I turned 40, and now 7 years on they’ve still not improved. They usually last an entire day, but sometimes they last a couple of days as this one seems to be, but they have lasted 4 days before and that gets really tedious.

Before any of you tell me things I shouldn’t eat or drink, I don’t have the following because if I do within 10 minutes my head gets very cross with me: No chocolate in any way shape or form. No caffeine so no tea or coffee, I have fruit teas not green tea as that has caffeine in it, I’ll have a decaf coffee very occasionally. No red wine. I do eat some cheese, but not every day, and then it’s not much. I can’t have too much processed sugar either, so a cake or a piece of flapjack once or twice a week. I’m not sure what else I can do. After the last few days I’ve even considered cannabis tea. I may have some tonight before bed and see how it goes. With that and our new Emma mattress I’ll be floating on cloud nine. I always have a good 8-9 hours of sleep each night, so it’s not lack of sleep….oh if I don’t get enough sleep that sets one off as well.

So with Friday best forgotten I was hoping that when I woke on Saturday morning my head would be back to normal, well it wasn’t quite. But in the morning and the first part of the afternoon it was much better, so after lunch I went out into the garden to sow some of my April seeds.

Right are you ready? There’s quite a few to get through. Off we go….

Let’s start with various salad leaves first. I sowed a few of each, but in a months time I’ll sow some more and keep sowing monthly until about September. that way I’ll have a good supply throughout the summer. These are best kept in the shade and moist because if it gets too hot then they’ll just bolt and go to seed. These are what I sowed, Lambs Lettuce, Purslane, Rocket, Tatsoi.

All these can be sown in exactly the same way and as they can be used in salads I sow them as I would any salad leaves.

Then I move onto some herbs, Sweet Basil “Genovese”, Coriander “Leisure” and finally some Lemongrass “East Indian Madagasar”.

Again I sow all these herbs in exactly the same way, and to be honest most herbs will be sown the same way.

And finally in the little seed trays Cauliflower “Romanesco“, I love these they are so beautiful and tasty.

These are sown in the same was as all the other brassicas, so cabbages, sprouts and so on…

The next lot of seeds I sowed in individual square pots, when you see what they are it’ll make sense as the seeds are much larger, and that way I won’t have to transplant them, just plant them outside in June.

Firstly the cucurbits. I sowed 2 seeds per pot, at diagonal corners. I place the seeds on the top of the compost first and then then push them down about an inch, that way if you get distracted by something at least you know which ones you’ve done.

This is what I’m growing this year, Gourds “Ornamental Mixed”, Courgette “Sunstripe” and Courgette “Green Bush” and finally some long outdoor Cucumbers, in Spain (which is where my packet comes from) they’re called “Alficoz”, but their other name seems to be Armenian Cucumbers.

All cucurbits need to be sown in exactly the same way so this is how I sow mine.

And then finally today I sowed my Okra seeds. Now Okra is very fussy, and doesn’t like to be moved so I sowed 4 seeds per pot.

The germination rate is also quite hit and miss maybe it’s the seeds being old, but even when I first got them they were quite poor. At least with sowing 4 seeds per pot I’ll hopefully get at least one plant per pot. If more come up, I won’t separate them them.

So that was it for Saturday, my brain started to hurt again so I needed to take another one of my special pills. Hopefully when I wake up tomorrow morning it will have completely gone and I can enjoy at least one day of the weekend.

Lottie and Dottie have been very busy in their garden sowing their Carrots, Sunflowers and Pumpkins. If you’d like to join them, why not visit them on Etsy and ask them to send you some books. Click HERE to take you straight to their page.

Take care and happy gardening!!

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Lottie and Dottie and now on Etsy!!

Lottie and Dottie have been very clever and set up their own Etsy page. They had to ask for a little bit of help with all the technical stuff from a lovely young lady called Emski. She was very patient and kind as she knew all about that sort of stuff.

Emski’s boyfriend KaiPie took the most amazing photographs which Lottie and Dottie were over the moon with.

If you would like to order any Lottie and Dottie books they will be so excited to send them to you.

You can have either just the books…

Or you can have your books signed with a special message…

Or you can even have you books signed with some seeds to start you off on your growing journey…

They are perfect for little ones from ages 3 to 7 years older either as a birthday gift or just because they’re special.

Why not click HERE and take a look and decide what is right for you.

They will be packed with care by Lottie and Dottie and delivered to your door.

Happy Gardening!!

Lots of love,

Lottie and Dottie xxx

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The Easter weekend 2021 – A 4 day weekend!!

With lockdown slowly easing there is a sense of hope in the air. The vaccination program is going really well in the UK and everyone over 50 has been offered their first jab. We’re all under 50 in our household, so our time hasn’t come quite yet, but hopefully will soon.

I am feeling very excited to be getting the vaccine soon, not only for myself, but knowing that it’ll be keeping other safe as well. There is also another side of me that is feeling rather apprehensive about getting the vaccination. Many people have told me that they had no reaction to it at all, some said they felt a little feverish for a few hours, but then you’ve heard of others feeling really ill for about a week. It seems to me that the younger you are, the more of a reaction you seem to get. This is worrying me a little as I know I may have to have some time off work to recover. Usually I’m the sort of person who takes painkillers and carries on, but I may have to bite the bullet and spend a few days in bed (hopefully with Mark).

I’ve been thinking ahead about having enough food in the house so the kids can cook and look after everything while I can’t. Am I over thinking this? Maybe. But being a mum and the provider of food it’s always something that I have to think about. I think I’ll just have to wait and see. I like my life to be organised and plan everything so I know what each day brings, but this is something I can’t plan ahead and I feel a little stressed out about it. As Lance Corporal Jones says in Dad’s Army, “Don’t panic!!” I’ll try Jonesy.

Now onto the gardening over the Easter weekend.

It’s been a very busy weekend in the garden and at home. Because there was a Bank holiday either side of the weekend, it meant that I ended up having a four day weekend. Not wanting the rest over those four days, well it’s just not like me. I decided to make myself a list of things I wanted to do, which took up the entire side of an A4 piece of paper. Clearly I had a lot to get through, both inside the house and outside in the garden. Would I get all those things done, well that was anyones guess?

I won’t bore you with all the house chores, I don’t think you really want to hear about that, so let’s get straight onto the garden stuff.

The sun was shining so Emily, Kai and I went out in the garden to take some photos of my Lottie and Dottie books in various ways. I’m setting up an Etsy account to sell them. Click HERE to go straight there, and will add various other bits as and when I do them.

Most of the seeds and seedlings in the greenhouses are doing really well. There are some very old seeds that I sowed that haven’t germinated yet, so I think the time has come for me to throw them away. They did very well, but like everything their time has come and they’re no longer going to grow.

The brassicas have been growing really well and are now large enough to be pricked out and go in individual pots. They’re about an inch and a half tall and some are just about getting their first set of true leaves. It didn’t take too long as I made sure that I only sowed a few of each this year. It’s very easy to sow too many. You really have to restrain yourself when sowing seeds.

The Globe Artichokes are also popping along very well, so they are now in their own individual pots and will hopefully grow very well. When they are large enough I can then plant them out around the garden and let the bees enjoy the flowers.

The melons took a while to germinate, but the little blast of warmth we had last week helped them on their way and they soon popped their heads through the compost. Bless them.

Then I moved onto some flower seeds. Now unlike everything I’ve pricked out so far, where it was one seedling per pot, if I did the same with the flowers I would still be pricking them out now. When you see flowers growing in a flower bed or wild out in a field, or along a verge by the road, you’ll notice they grow in clumps. So with this in mind when I prick out flower seedlings, I tend to do them in groups of a few seedlings. These ones I did in groups of 3, but if you have a load of poppies then groups of 10 seedlings would do fine. You don’t have to count them exactly, just a rough guess.

Because the weather was beautifully warm and sunny and as I was out in the garden the chickens felt that they should be as well. If I let them wander round the garden (which due to bird flu you have to keep them in an area that is netted on the top as well as the side) they would get into all sorts of mischief. Fortunately I have two rather large brassica cages that I’m not using at the moment, due to the fact the brassicas are still in the greenhouses. So these are perfect for impromptu runs for the chickens to play in. So in they went to have some fun and play in the soil without me having to keep a watchful eye on them all the time. After a good scratch about it was time for them to have a dust bath. They were very happy lazing around in the sun stretching their legs and wings out and enjoying life.

I also had some mixed hardy geraniums to prick out, and because these grow rather large and are different varieties they needed to be pricked out individually and put in small pots. Watch when you get geraniums as many are not hardy and will die over the winter unless you keep them in terracotta pots and put them in a greenhouse over the winter. I have some that I have to move in when it gets cold, but as long as you do that they’ll be fine. The hardy ones can stay out all year, so just make sure you get the right ones.

All the seedlings whether they’re flowers or veggies will be fine to plant out about mid to end of May time. But they’ve still got lots of growing to do before then.

The last lot of planting I did was my potatoes. I know lots of people swear that potatoes must go in on Good Friday. Why this is I don’t know. I’m sure one of you will tell me. But as long as you get your potatoes in by they middle of May at the very latest they’ll be fine. I usually plant mine in the first half of April as I find the weather is a little warmer and the soil is easier to dig. But this year I’m trying something new. I’m planting all my potatoes in large buckets. I have two different varieties this year, Sarpo Mira and King Edward. I’ve sown two seed potatoes per bucket.

If growing in buckets, place about 6 inches of multipurpose compost in the bottom of the bucket. Sprinkle in some potato fertiliser. Place the seed potatoes on the soil and then fill up the remainder of the bucket with more compost. Firm the compost down and then water. They should only need watering once or maybe twice a week to start with, unless it’s very dry. The more they grow the more they’ll need watering. Hopefully by the time the leaves poke above the soil then all worry of frost will be gone.

If you’re growing them in the ground this is how I do mine.

So Friday, Saturday and Sunday were beautifully warm and sunny…..but what about Monday I hear you ask…..Well it snowed!!

Not much and it didn’t settle, but it snowed nonetheless. And the wind was bitterly cold, so I spent Bank Holiday Monday doing lots of chores in the house. Can’t have my wobbly bits getting cold now can I?

Hope you all had a lovely Easter and didn’t eat too much chocolate. I can’t eat chocolate, it makes my head very angry, so I have Easter beer instead which makes my head all happy a fluffy.

I didn’t quite get everything done on my massive list, but I’ll just have to sort those things out next weekend.

Take care and stay safe and well.

Happy Gardening xxxxx

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Monday 22nd March 2021 – Onion sets, Spring Onions and some Carrots!

Today was a day off! I know it sounds odd, but I tend to have the third Monday of the week off at the moment (I’m sure that’ll change soon), so as the weather was fabulous again I went back out into the garden to finish off those things I couldn’t get done yesterday.

Sutton Seeds very kindly sent me some free onion sets, because they used one of my videos in their onion blog. There were two different varieties “Red Ray” and “Hysky”. Neither variety have I grown before. I’m growing my own onions from seed this year, so it’ll be interesting to see which ones do better. My onions that I sowed from seed are still in the greenhouse in their individual pots and won’t be planted outside until about May time, but the onion sets I got from Suttons I have 6 or 7 rows planted next to my garlic that I planted late last year and is growing well.

Once those were done, I sowed one row of Spring Onions “Guardsman”

And a couple of rows of mixed Carrots. The packet says “Paris Market Atlas”, but I know I mixed various other varieties in there as well, so it’ll be interesting when I come to harvest them, and hopefully pull up lots of different colours, shapes and sizes. But harvesting is a long time away, hopefully July time for the first one.

I’ll keep readying Lottie and Dottie Sow Carrots to make sure I’m looking after them properly.

Once everything was in the ground I gave everything a good water. The soil is damp, but quite dry on the top, we’ve actually not had rain for about a week and the sun is now starting to get very hot so I’d better start watering.

I checked the seedlings in the greenhouses and the brassicas have started to appear, but they’re still far too small to prick out, that will have to wait until next weekend. By that time they’ll be a good size and have some excellent roots on them. I expect they’ll be loads to pricking out to do next weekend anyway, but then the clocks do change and we’ll be in British Summer Time!! Yay!! Longer evenings, oh and the heating will be able to go off soon, that’ll save on oil.

Just to update you with the garden waste saga, I sent the council a message on Facebook saying that I hope that I wouldn’t have to message them every two weeks, and actually received a reply. He was going to “look into it for me” (whatever that means), and that “there was clearly something very wrong happening here.” I’ve got work today so will know if it’s been emptied when I get home because my wheelie bin is neatly positioned by the hedge and they’ll never put it back in exactly the same place.

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Sunday 21st March 2021 – My birthday!!

Today I turned forty mumble, mumble, mumble today. A fabulous start to the day with the kids coming in early with some wonderful pressies. I got another t-shirt (garden themed of course), some unusual fruit teas which most are very difficult to get in the shops, a wonderful new note book to write down any novel idea I have (I’ve got a few notes to do on my first novel, but am thinking about what happens in the second book already), a couple of fabric head bands, The Greatest Showman Bly Ray (it’s one of those films, when I’m feeling a bit weird and not myself I’ll sit and watch. I think I’m over the top of the hill with the weird feelings, but it’s taking a long while to descend the mountain), the Sarah Pinborough novel Behind Her Eyes, if you’ve not seen the 6 part drama I suggest you give it a go. And finally some new slippers that are so cozy to put your feet inside, and the softest dressing gown I have ever felt and some money from various other people.

After breakfast of pastries and croissants, and obviously getting washed and dresses, I was out in the garden.

I tidied the front first, not that there was much to do there, most of it’s in pots and the bed by the house, I gave it a massive overhaul last autumn because the house was being painted. The shrubs I had to prune back really hard and now they’re starting to produce leaves again. Now I can keep them to a sensible size, where as before they were just too large. Various bulbs are flowering, mainly the hyacinths and the daffodils, but the tulip leaves are growing well, the flowers won’t appear for another month or so. The front of the house is south facing so it gets lots of sun so the tulips tend to flower out the front first before the ones in the back does. But that’s fine by me as I get a longer flowering season that way.

Once the front was all sorted then I went into the back garden and headed straight to my greenhouses.

The first job was to tidy up the geraniums. These are semi hardy geraniums that have to live in the greenhouse over the winter, but when the weather is warm enough they are very happy out in the garden. I keep them in pots so they are much easier to move, but they flower throughout the late Spring, Summer and into the Autumn. They’re very highly scented and the bees love them. I’ve got some large plants which I keep taking cutting from. It’s very easy to do. Just cut a stem off, and put it in some multipurpose compost. If you do ten then seven or eight are likely to take.

Now they’re all nice and tidy and if I trim them regularly then they’ll grow lovely and bushy.

Then it was time to check up on all the seedlings and see if anything needed pricking out. I sowed a load of seeds last weekend, and many of them have started to appear, but are all too small to prick out at the moment. But I gave them a good water and popped their propagator lids back one, firstly to keep them a little warmer, but secondly to stop any mice from having a little nibble. I don’t think any are getting in the garden any more, well I don’t think any rats are getting in anymore, but mice can squeeze through the smallest of gaps. Mice seem to create less damage than their larger relatives so if the odd mouse gets in the garden I don’t really mind. If they start breeding I may change my view on that.

I also gave any other plants that I’d already pricked out some water, and any other plants that I have in the greenhouses. They’re all growing really well, and now we’re in Spring and the days are getting longer and warmer then hopefully they’ll put on loads of growth.

Once all that was done it was time for lunch. In our house when it’s your birthday you get to choose what you want for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this was started by my parents and I continue the tradition. So for lunch today I choose a platter lunch. On a large wooden chopping board you put cheeses, various salads, meats, olives, coleslaw, sausage rolls, chicken drum sticks, potato salad, and in a bowl some cut up French bread and in another bowl some crisps. If you wanted to add some little cocktail sausages or cheese straws, or anything else to it you can. You then make up your own lunch, it’s fun and is different every time. As it was my birthday I had a beer, and then for pudding we had a cup cake. Oh man they are so tasty.

Then time to watch a little something on the TV while lunch went down and then back out in the garden for some more fun.

The afternoon was spent weeding. I know for many of you that doesn’t sound like fun, but to me it is. Yes I am a little odd I know. But the sense of achievement once it’s all done is wonderful. All neat and tidy, I just love it. I also needed to move various bags of garden waste from the back garden in to the garage. I would have put it straight in the garden waste wheelie bin, but obviously the council missed my bin again. That’s twice they’ve missed it now and there have only been two garden waste collections so far this year! Bloody useless. Obviously I’ve reported it, but they finally collected the first lot 12 days after it was supposed to be collected, so I’m not holding out much hope for this time.

Dinner was lamb, slowly cooked in red wine with celery, carrots, onions and garlic. Roast potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli from the garden. Guinness to drink with dinner for me, the other’s had what they like, and then after bath, and time to put on my wonderfully soft dressing gown (it’s got a hood as well), it was another cupcake and a little song.

A wonderful way to spend my birthday with the family. I was the last one in the family to have my birthday in lockdown. But to be honest it was perfect for me. I sat at the table eating dinner in my pj’s, dressing gown and slippers. If you did that at a restaurant I think they would have a word. I got to do what I love all day and be with the people I love, what more could I ask for.

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Sunday 14th March 2021 – A perfect Mother’s Day.

Today was Mother’s day and I got some wonderful gifts from Emily, George and Kai. No beer or wine, but then my birthday is in a week, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed I get some then. Still I had plenty in the fridge so that was fine. The kids clearly know me very well, as they got me a lovely chicken tea towel and mug, as well as come lovely fudge (not the smooth kind but the stuff that melts in your mouth which I prefer), and a couple of posh bars of soap so I can try and get my hands clean after a day in the garden.

We had a simple breakfast of freshly baked croissants and fruit juice. A platter lunch with french bread, salad, meats, cheeses, olives, sausages rolls and loads of other bits. For pudding some lemon butterfly cakes and as it was a special day they had fizzy and I had a beer. Look it’s the weekend and it’s Mother’s Day. I’d also worked very hard all week, and worked on Saturday tidy four large beds and then planting them up for our local pub. I’ve not worked on a Saturday for 16 years…..I don’t know why I’m trying to justify to you all why I had a beer with lunch. I’m a grown up and forty mumble, mumble, mumble years old so I can do what I like. Dinner was roasted chicken drumsticks in a BBQ marinade, couscous and roasted veggies…..and another cake for pudding.

But in between all the meals I went into my special place to have some fun of my own.

I had more pricking out to do, so that was the first job. More tomatoes had grown, so I did the Spanish Supermarmande, Gardener’s Delight and the Spanish Minibel Cocktail. They are all now in their individual square pots with the other ones I pricked out last weekend, so hopefully they’ll all be happy together and get on well with no arguments.

Over the last week the Kaberi Aubergines have grown well, so it was time for those to be pricked out as well. When pricking out these and putting them into their individual pots, make sure you plant them shallow. What I mean by that is make sure that only the roots and the small white part at the base of the stem is below the soil. The main part of the stem needs to be above the soil.

Aubergines don’t like to be sown deep, if you do they won’t be very happy and are likely to rot.

Many of you are asking where I get my pots from so here is the link from H S Plastics. These are the square pots I use, the seed trays, and the propagator lids. You may want to get together with some friends to buy some, for most people this is too much.

Once all the latest load of pricking out was done, it was them time to do a load more sowing. Right are you ready? I’ll start with the veggies first and then move onto the flowers. Here goes…..

I’m still harvesting the last of the Brassicas from last year, but now is the time to start sowing for this season. A good selection, some for us and some for the chickens, got to keep everyone happy. Kale “Smoothie Mix“, Brussels Sprouts “Trafalgar”, Purple Sprouting Broccoli “Red Fire”, Calabrese “Ironman”, Cabbage “Advantage“, “Cabbage “Greyhound”, and finally Cabbage “January King 3”. Some of the cabbage seeds are out of date, so if none germinate I’ll throw the seed packet away. But brassicas usually have a very good germination rate. All brassicas need to be sown in the same way.

Other veggies now. Artichokes “Green Globe”, Just sprinkle on top of some damp compost and cover with a little more on top. These are best started off in a greenhouse or on a window sill.

Lettuce “Mixed”,

Parsley “Italian Giant”,

Sugar Snap Peas “Nairobi” and Pea “Shiraz”. If you sow a few dozen seeds every month then you’ll get a good supply throughout the year.

I then sowed Winter Squash “Hunter” and Pumpkins in individual square pots. I sowed 2 seeds per pot.

Now onto the flowers….

All the flowers some are annuals and some are perennials, but they will fill up spaces in various beds in my garden.

Annuals: Californian Poppy “Single Mixture”, Love in a Mist “Nigella Persian Jewels Mixed“, Nasturtiums “Tall Flowered Mixed”, and lastly two different varieties of Sunflowers “Giant Single” and “Titan”. All sown in a seed tray, except the Sunflowers and Nasturtiums, they’re best sown in square pots and planting 2 seeds together .

Perennials: Papaver “Orientale Pizzicato”, Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants “Woodland Flower Mix“, Geranium “Hardy Mixed” and lastly Lavandula “Hidcote Blue”. Although they don’t seem to do that variety anymore so here are other Lavandulas. Again sow them all in a seed tray.

When I come to prick them out I’ll let you know what I do with them.

What a lovely way to spend this year’s Mother’s Day, for me that was perfect. I hope that however you spent the day, whatever you were doing you enjoyed it.

Easter is coming up soon, so if you’re thinking of a none chocolate gift for someone why not get them my Claire’s Essentials book. They can always have a piece of chocolate while they’re reading it.

Take care and let’s see what mischief I can get up to next week xxx

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Sunday 7th March 2021 – The pricking out has began……

The perfect Sunday for me would be to start with a bit of bell ringing (still not allowed to do that yet because of this pandemic, but hopefully back fairly soon), then when I get home, grab a cup of tea and then go straight out into the garden and be there for the rest of the day.

I am please to say that the last two of those I was still able to do today. Whatever life decided to throw at us at the moment, at least somethings never have to change. So after doing a few chores in the house I grabbed a cup of tea and out I went.

Victoria and BB are getting along very well now and all the wire to separate them has now been taken away. Although Victoria sometimes forgets that she should sleep on the perch at night, so I’ve had to take her out one of the nesting boxes to show her where to go. I’m sure she’ll get there eventually. She lays an egg most days now, and I think she’s reminded BB that she should be doing this as well. As long as they’re happy that’s all that matters to me. Victoria doesn’t mind me picking her up now, but if anyone else tries she runs away. I must have the special touch, or maybe she’s just frightened of anyone she doesn’t know.

The garden waste was supposed to be picked up last Thursday, but they didn’t do mine. Obviously I complained, but all the customer service people are working from home so you can’t talk to a human being at the moment. It’s still sitting by the road just incase, but I don’t hold out much hope. I have lots of bags of garden waste that need to go in it once it’s been emptied. But that’s the moan over.

Firstly I sowed a load of seeds for a client, all of which are flower seeds, and then I got onto my own stuff. I needed to prick out my Exhibition Onions.

They’re about 2 inches tall now are are touching to top of the propagator lid, so it’s time for them to be transplanted into their own individual square pots. This year I’m easing them out with my little red safety knife (yes I’m totally aware of how contradicting that sounds), I’ve previously used a pencil, but whatever works for you. I filled the pots with multipurpose compost, made a deep hole with my middle finger, eased out the seedling, popped it in the hole making sure all the roots and the white part and a little bit of the green section above was under the soil and then filled in around the seedling with a little more compost.

Then it was time to do the same with the Musselburgh Leeks which again are germinating really well. Last year the leeks did really well and I’ve still got some in the freezer waiting to be eaten.

I’ve sown two different varieties of Sweet Peas, and one variety is ready to be pricked out now, but the other needs about another week. You can sow your sweet pea seeds directly into small pots and then you don’t have to worry about pricking them out, but I was getting a little short on compost when I sowed these so couldn’t do them that way. Just be careful when you prick them out as the roots are incredibly long and wiggle all over the place. Also make sure when handling them you hold them by the leaves and not the stem.

I’ve sown four different varieties of Tomatoes this year “Giant Tree”, “Gardener’s Delight”, “Supermarmande” and “Minibel Cocktail”. Some are now ready to be pricked out but some need a little longer.

You can prick them out when they’re about an inch tall, but if you feel that’s too small for you, then wait a little taller. Don’t leave them too late otherwise they’ll get very leggy. They’re best pricked out when they’re between 1-1.5 inches tall. I’ve put one seedling per pot and make sure all the stem is under the soil and only the leaves are above. They may look like a new born baby in a kingsized bed at the moment, but they’ll soon grow into their pots.

The ones that are really too small I’ve left in the and gently smoothed down the compost again. I’ll come back next weekend to do the rest.

Then it was onto the Louisa Cucumbers.

I can’t remember how many seeds I sowed, but so far 5 have germinated. I’m sure at least another couple will appear soon, but if I only have these few I’m sure it’ll be enough.

Finally in the greenhouses I sowed a few more seeds, this time some Spinach “Amazon”.

And also some Lettuce, the one I’ve just sown is called “Easyleaf Mixed”, but there are plenty of different Lettuce to choose from so whatever you fancy.

I’ll sow more of these in a months time, and continue sowing monthly until about August/September time so will hopefully have a continuous supply throughout the year and into the Autumn.

Just before I’d had enough and needed to come in I also managed little bit more weeding of the fruit patch. It’s quite fiddly to weed in and amongst the strawberry plants, so little and often is the key. To be honest it’s the best thing to do in all aspects of gardening, that way it doesn’t seem like a huge mountain to climb everything you go and do some. You can’t make your garden or allotment perfect immediately, these things take time. Just remember each year will be better than the last.

So another busy weekend. I’ve got a full week next week, so see you back out in the garden next weekend I expect.

Take care and stay safe and well xxx

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