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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Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th February 2021 – One garden, two greenhouses, two chickens and lots of work.

I am pleased to report that Victoria our new chicken and Big Bird or BB as we now call her, are now getting along very well together. There’s the odd angry look, but BB isn’t scared of her new buddy anymore. They’re still in their separate areas, even in the big brassica cage, but when I’m out in the garden, I let them play on the grass together. The grass is like no man’s land so no one feels they have the upper hand, except me that is. I think next week end they’ll live quite happily in their shed and attached run, but baby steps for them both is needed.

This weekend was another glorious one. Not shorts weather, but no need to wear a coat on top of a jumper sort of weather. It was the perfect time to do more in the garden and greenhouses.

Firstly let’s start with the garden – More weeding in the fruit patch, I’m getting there, but there is more to do. Where ever I am weeding the chickens come as well. Not sure if they love me so much they just don’t like to be away from me, or, and more likely, they’re hoping I’ll find and then give them any worms. I like to think it’s a bit of both, but then I could be kidding myself. When they’re bored of being with me, they hop onto another bed and either have a scratch, or start pecking at some of the open Brussels Sprouts that are at the bottom of the stalks.

Late last year I got a load of ground covering Phlox from J Parker. They were mini plugs so I needed to pot them up and grow them on a little more before putting them outside. They’ve been happily growing in the greenhouse over the winter and are now large enough to go out into the big wide world. So I had a quick, but thorough weed and tidy of the fairy garden, and then planted them in any spare spaces. Hopefully they’ll like their new home and later in the Spring and into the Summer and Autumn they’ll create, with the other plants, a lovely sea of colour under the willow tree. I’ll take a photo later in the year to show you.

The garden waste starts again this week which is brilliant, I’ve got a wheelie bin full and lots of bags waiting to be collected. They only collect our garden waste from March-middle of December, apparently people don’t garden is January or February. Clearly they don’t know us gardeners at all. For those of you who are wondering why I don’t have a compost heap, the short answer is I used to have two, but the rats made a home in them and had babies. It’s taken me three and a half years to stop the buggers coming in the garden at night. Oh and the tip is 6 miles away and having to book a slot and the time it takes to go there and back, it’s just easier to have a wheelie bin. It all goes in the same place anyway.

After lunch I was then in the greenhouses. I’ve got lots of spider plants and strawberry plants growing in there, and they needed a bit of a tidy up with any spent leaves removed. Once that was done it was time to do some pricking out. Firstly the Cosmos and then a load of Marigolds and Dill.

I got my square pots and filled them up with multi purpose compost and firmed it down a little.

Then I made a hole in the centre with my finger, or a long pencil or a dibber if you prefer. Make the hole as deep as you can and then very carefully ease out the seedlings.

I’m using a safety knife to ease the seedlings out, but have used a blunt pencil before which I find works very well. The Cosmos I’m transplanting about 3 or 4 seedlings together, the Marigolds 2 or 3 seedlings and the Dill about 10 seedlings. That way when I put them out in the garden and herb patch they’re more of a clump that individual plants that might look a bit lonely. Make sure that when moving any seedlings you always hold the leaves and never the stem. If you break a little of the leaf then it’s not a problem, bit if you break the stem then that’s it.

Then ease the seedlings in the hole making sure as much of the stem is under the soil and just the leaves are above the soil. This will make them a little more robust and sturdy as they grow.

I then gave them a good water and they’re very happy now in the greenhouse.

So a very busy day in the garden this weekend. I didn’t get everything done, but I’ll work through anything else this coming week. Next weekend I’ll be sowing lots more seeds.

Time for a beer and dinner I think!

TTFN xxx

Don’t forget my Claire’s Allotment Essentials Book Volume 1, it’s full of all sorts of information that you need. Click HERE if you would like to buy it.

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Sunday 21st February 2021 – What a glorious weekend

It’s hard to believe that one week ago was just above zero and there was still snow on the ground, with the weather this weekend it seems a million miles away.

So not wanting to waste this glorious weather I was out in the garden today doing all sorts of bits and pieces.

It was my husband Mark’s birthday today, I’m not going to tell you how old he now is but for the next 4 weeks he’s 2 years older than me. So while he was busy building his LEGO Star Wars ATAT that we all chipped in and got him for his birthday, I was out in the garden having some fun of my own.

Before I started on the beds I opened up the greenhouse doors to let some fresh air in and also check on the plants and seedlings. The greenhouse is only heated by the sun, and even at this time of year can get up to 20 degrees, although on Saturday it got up to 28 degrees, lovely and toasty. I checked all the seedlings to see if anything was happening, the seeds I’d sown a couple of days before I wasn’t expecting them to be up yes, but to my absolute joy the seeds I’d sown on the 31st January have started to show their little faces. The ones that have germinated so far and the Sweet Peas, Dill and Leeks. Hopefully the others in the tray won’t be far off.

Once I’d given the larger plants a little water I then moved outside to start on the beds. The brassica bed was the first area that needed to be sorted. I pulled up any of the spent plants, cleared away any dead leaves, cut off the tops of the Brussels sprouts and gave some to the chickens who were playing in one of the brassica cages on a cleared raised bed. Harvested some sprouts for dinner tomorrow, did a little bit of light weeding, and then staked some of the sprouting broccoli that is falling over a little bit.

To my utter delight I noticed that the sprouting broccoli is coming along very nicely and should be ready once we’ve finished all the Brussels.

Then it was time to sow a few February seeds that need to be sown directly outside. Broad beans “Aquadulce” are the variety I’m growing this year, but there are many other different varieties out there. You can either be started off undercover, I’m not talking about disguising them as other seeds and putting a fake beard on them so they can spy on other seeds. I’m talking about undercover in a greenhouse. When I had my allotment in Surrey I had to start my Broad beans off in the greenhouse because the squirrels on the allotment site would dig up the seeds and run off with them. But since we’ve moved and I’ve had the raised beds in the back garden then I’m able to plant them straight out in the ground.

Although the very first year, our night time visitors used to come and steal them. But now I think I’ve got that under control, fingers crossed it’s not a problem anymore. We don’t tend to get many squirrels here, why not I don’t know. To be honest they prefer the neighbours bird feeders as it’s an easy meal.

I also sowed a couple of rows of Parsnips “Gladiator”. I’ve just harvested the rest of last years ones, so out with the old and in with the new.

A couple of varieties of Radish “Pink Beauty” and “Pearl”, which I’ve scattered in a big butler sink that I have near the greenhouses. I tend to find that radish do better when the temperature is cooler, they don’t like the really hot weather so the beginning and end of the season are usually the best. You can grow them in a straight line if you wish, but as long as the seeds are about half an inch down then however you sow them is fine.

I have lots of bags of garden waste patiently waiting for the collections to start again. They only collect garden waste from March to the middle of December where I live. The reason for this is according to them, no one gardens in January and February? Clearly they don’t know us hardy gardeners and don’t realise that’s the perfect time to have a good tidy up. Still not long to wait. Believe me I get my money out of this service, bin goes out ever fortnight full or not.

Don’t forget my Claire’s Allotment Essentials Book Part 1. If you want easy and straightforward gardening advice this is the book for you.

Time to go in and have a celebratory dinner for Mark’s birthday with a special pudding and a song and a candle. Doesn’t matter how old you are, you still want people to sing to you on your birthday.

If you’re wondering what this pudding is, it’s a mixture of raspberries and blueberries, topped with creme fraiche, then topped it crushed meringues. Then repeat again.

Take care and stay safe and well. Happy Gardening xxxx

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Tuesday 16th February 2021 – February seeds.

Apart from the odd bit of snow about the rest has all gone, and the world is green again! I only worked a morning today, so this afternoon I was able to get out into the greenhouse and sow a load of seeds. The temperature in the greenhouse is about 15 degrees so that’s a good temperature for seeds to germinate. I’ve got a lot to go through, so if you’re ready and sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.

I’ll start with the fruits and veggies first, and then move onto a few flowers. I’ve attached some of the sowing videos from before to help you, and I’ll put links to all the seed companies I used.

Tomatoes – Now I did promise myself I wouldn’t grow as many different varieties as I normally do, plus I’m hoping to grow some of the tomatoes out in the raised beds this year (that may change later, but that’s the plan so far). I’ve only got four different varieties this year and a couple are from Spain, so unless you live there, or are able to visit, you may have to choose a slightly different variety. “Minibel Cocoktail” are small cherry tomatoes. You can buy seeds from Johnsons, but this is a compact plant, where as the ones I have, grow very tall. The other Spanish variety I have is “Supermarmande” which you can also buy from Thompson and Morgan, these are beef steak tomatoes. Then some good old reliable “Gardener’s Delight”, and then finally because they seemed so interesting some “Giant Tree Tomatoes“.

Chilli’s, sweet and hot – Again from Spain some “Padron Peppers”, but you can find the seeds at Marshalls if you want to give them a go. Then onto some Sweet Peppers, “California Wonder” and “Rainbow Mixed”. Mine grew brilliantly last year so I’m hoping for some great ones this year as well. Now onto something a little hotter. I’m only growing a couple of varieties of chillies this year, “Razzamatazz” and “Cayenne Red”. I’ve still got lots in the freezer, so don’t need that many this year. Although I’ve most probably sown more than I think.

Next I sowed some Cucumbers, two different varieties, one the seeds are from Spain, and they only grow to about 6 inches long, and you have to peel off the skin because it gets very bitter. In Spain they grow them outside, so the skin has to be fairly tough. I may try growing some outside this year and see how they get on. I might construct some sort of structure for them to climb up, but then again I may forget by then. The other variety are called “Louisa”.

And finally a few more veggies. Celeriac “Prinz”, which I’ve grown before, but not for several year.

Melons “Sugar Baby”.

“Parsley “Italian Giant”. This video shows a variety of herbs that I sowed a couple of years ago, including the parsley. Most herb seeds are sown in exactly the same way though.

And last but by no means least a couple of varieties of Aubergines “Kaberi” and a purple and white striped one from Spain, sorry I don’t know the name, but they look a bit like “Pinstripe” but only bigger.

Now onto the flowers. Flowers are very important to grow with or near your fruits and veggies as they attract the bees and this then helps with pollination. Some of these seeds are annuals, but some are perennials. Some I will grow with the veggies in the raised beds, but others I will be planting in my fairy garden to fill in some little spaces.

Annuals – Marigold “Crackerjack Mixed”, you can always save the seeds for next year if you like. They have lovely large orange heads, don’t grow very tall, so will need to be planted at the front of beds or in a pot. Marigolds are also great at attracting slugs and snails, so if you want to keep your precious veggies safe and don’t mind sacrificing your marigolds then they are a great companion plant.

Cosmos “Candy Stripe” – are another very pretty addition to the garden. They have very delicate flowers that the bees love. they can be sown straight outside in April/May time, but I do worry the germination rate isn’t so good.

Pennyroyal – is a perennial herb, which used to be very common, but faded out of fashion. It has gorgeous lilac coloured flowers which are perfect for a woodland garden or to fill a space in a flower bed.

Agapanthus “White Dwarf” – I just love. They come in all sorts of colours from white, light thorough to dark blue, and light through to dark purple. Many flowers can stand about 3 feet tall on their long thin stems. But there also some dwarf varieties around and these are the ones I’ve planted today. They are wonderful out in flower beds or even in a pot on the patio.

Moraea Huttonii – And finally I didn’t choose these, but they came free so I wasn’t going to complain. They are bright yellow and I’m sure they will look amazing where ever I decide to plant them.

I’ll keep you posted on how everything gets on and don’t forget I have my Claire’s Allotment Essentials Part One book is available HERE.

I will be working on Book Two at the end of this year, but I’ve got a Who done it novel to complete first. I know exciting stuff, well I think it’s exciting anyway.

Take care and stay safe and well. Enjoy getting back into your garden now that the weather has warmed up and Spring is nearly with us. There’s lots going on this year, and I’ll keep you posted right here.

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Sunday 7th February 2021 – Snow!!!

Well it’s here!! It rained all night and strong winds as Storm Darcy battered out bedroom windows upstairs. But as we were eating our breakfast the rain began turning to snow. Because the ground was very wet I wasn’t expecting it to settle, but as the morning went on it became heavy snow and very large flakes, so it started to cover the ground. It was sub zero, but apparently felt like -8 with the wind chill. And it felt like that when I went to give the chickens their breakfast this morning.

We stayed in all morning but ventured out after lunch for a little stroll. The snow was settling fast, and we just wanted to get out in it, it’s snow, you have to. Well I say stroll, squelching through a muddy field, and having your face battered by horizontal snow pelting your face was a new experience for us all.

We all wrapped up warm with more layers on that I can imagine, thick coats, scarves, hats, gloves and either walking boots or wellies (Emily, Kai and I opted for wellies). We must have all looked like 5 marshmallow men from Ghostbusters walking along.

We arrived at the cafe by the sea, we only live a couple of miles from the sea anyway, had a hot drink and sheltered round the corner from the biting wind before we had a quick look at the sea (you have to don’t you).

We then headed back home a slightly different, but more picturesque route.

We arrived home all red faced and exhausted, but very happy we ventured out. Clearly only mad people go out in that weather. After a hot drink, dinner went in the oven to cook for about 4 hours (massive gammon joint, yummy), and we then did our own thing. I checked on the chickens and gave them their afternoon corn, they were all snug and happy in their house. I wanted to see what they made of the snow, so picked up Big Bird and popped her down in it. She didn’t move, seemed very confused and looked at me as if to say “What you doing woman? Put me back inside now!” So I did.

I doubt if I’ll be working in mine or any client’s garden’s this week, can’t see it warming up until the weekend. Still I’ve got lots to do in the house, and still have my Sesame Street Lego to build that I got for Christmas.

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