Sunday 14th May 2023 – I was only away for a week!

While I was a way the garden decided to go completely mad and grow like anything. Thankfully I’m back and I can now get it back into some sort of order. Honestly you’d think I’d left it for a month.

Saturday was busy with bellringing stuff, so Sunday was my time in the garden, and I made the most of it. I’ve still got one wild bunny running round my garden somewhere so I’ve had to mow the grass. Yes I know it’s ‘No Mow May’, but I was meant to mow it on May 1st, (we were out on 30th April) but couldn’t, so it’s been growing for a month anyway. If I leave it much longer I’ll need to get a scythe to it.

So after freaking out the chickens with the noise of the mower I left them out to play in one of the brassica cages. The brown ones go in very easily as they know what to do, but the white ones are still a little tentative.

So while they were playing and scratching and hopefully weeding then I was doing the same to various beds.

It’s a case of working round the garden gradually, so tidy, weed and water as I go. I got quite a lot done today, and hopefully I can get more down this week around work and other stuff.

I came in at 5pm, well it’s gin time after all.

So a good day, we all had fun, the sun shone, I tidied the pots at the front and several beds out the back. Time for a bath after dinner and back to work tomorrow.

Have a great week everyone xx

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1 canal boat, 8 bellringers, lots of sun, some thunder, some hail, 4 bell towers and quite a bit of booze……

I’ve just come back from a wonderful canal boat holiday with seven other bell ringers. This is my third trip with them and I have so much fun. Looking at the weather forecast for the week it didn’t look brilliant, but most of the time the sun shone and it was dry. We did have a little thunderstorm overhead and opening a lock when it was pissing with rain and then hailing was not my idea of fun, but we all counted ourselves lucky for the weather that we had.

To go on a boat with that many people you all have to get on, and fortunately we all do. We played various card games, I still can’t get my head around Cribbage (I know it’s got something to do with 15 and pairs but who knows), but enjoyed watching it. We also played Bingo, which I got very excited about. I only ever play it on the canal holidays and it’s so much fun. Rummikub was also a favourite. We chatted, laughed, drunk so much tea, ate some wonderful food, got cross with the oven because it stopped working but Jane had bought her slow cooker so we were fine. ‘The Boat Bar’ usually opened around 5pm ish which was perfect, various drinks were on offer, but mainly gin.

We started our little trip at Napton and turned left out of the boatyard onto the Oxford canal. During the holiday we rung at 4 different churches. We started at All Saint’s, Flore, rang a Quarter peal for the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on the Saturday evening and then joined them for Sunday morning ringing at St Mary’s, Cropredy. We all wore out crowns that Sarah had lovingly made for us all.

We also rang and St James the Apostle, Somerton and finally St James, Southam. All the bells were very lovely to ring and we had a wonderful time. It’s great to ring different bells when you’re away. If Mark and I are away for the weekend, I’ll find somewhere to ring on a Sunday morning. He’s a very understanding husband.

The views as we were going along were amazing with cows, sheep and lambs, donkeys and even buffalo in the fields. It was quiet and peaceful, the birds were singing their happy tunes in the trees and we saw lots of ducklings and goslings. Travelling no more than 3 mph is just so chilling, and the gentle sway of the boat stays with you for a few days once you return home….or maybe that’s the gin?

We all helped out with everything. Everyone knew what to do when it came to the locks, although I still class myself as a novice. Sometimes there were locks fairly close together so while one pair sorted out one set of locks another pair walked on to the next set of locks. While you were waiting for your boat to arrive it was the perfect time to do a bit of ‘lock lying’, according to Jane. It may look slightly uncomfortable, but I can assure you it’s not.

We had a posh afternoon tea on the boat for the coronation with various flavoured sandwiches, sausage rolls, and various sweet treats, washed down with some champagne. We had decorated the boat with union jack flags and we wore party hats and had posh napkins for the occasion. There was enough food left over for the following day, so everyone just nibbled as we chugged along. Well it is hungry work you know.

Before we knew it we were sailing back under bridge 109 and back at the boat yard. We were away for a week (Friday to Friday), but it went far too quickly.

Mark was happy to have me back home though. Poor chap had been on his own for the last week as our daughter and her boyfriend went away the same day as I did. He got all excited when someone came to read the electricity meter.

Thank you everyone for making it such an amazing time I loved every minute of it.

Back home now to see what the garden got up to while I was away…….oh lordy it’s like a jungle.

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No Mow May!!

If you’re one of those people who just hates mowing the grass, then you can have a month off and it’s all for a good cause.

Why not join in with ‘No Mow May’. Yes it’s a real thing and happens every year.

Some people are so determined to have a perfectly manicured lawn with no moss, dandelions, clover or daisies in, but if you don’t have any of these then there is very little life in your grass.

All those flowers encourage pollinating insects, and especially help support and feed out beloved bees which we are declining at an alarming rate.

So just for the month of May let your grass grow long and luscious. Let the insects run free. Walk out and stand on your grass bare foot and squish the grass through your toes. Believe me it feels so good.

Gardens shouldn’t be pristine they should be a little messy.

Take part in this movement right now and spread the word.

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Claire’s Allotment May 2023 Update

Well what a weekend that was. Busy busy.

Mark and I were away for the weekend, which is generally all the holiday we get together at the moment as we’re both just so busy.

We drove, or rather Mark did all the driving, down to Hampshire late Friday afternoon once I’d finished work. We had dinner at the hotel and then an early night. On the Saturday we visited the Gardeners’ World Spring fair at Beaulieu. One of the clients that I garden for surprised me by very generously buying a couple of tickets as a thank you for all the hard work I do in their garden.

As we were driving the short distance from the hotel to Beaulieu we had to pull over to watch the horses and the cows wandering over the heath. The New Forest is the most glorious place and these animals just wander into the road whenever they please. Still we’re used to the local wildlife in the road where we live so it’s not a problem for us.

We finally arrived at the show and what a wonderful time we had and the weather was perfect. I am now full of all sorts of ideas for my garden.

We not only walked round and inspected (well I inspected Mark just carried my bags) each stall, and I’m sure I spent far too much money, but we also went into the motor museum and walked around the house and gardens. Wow what a lot of walking we did that day. My knees at the end were not very happy, especially on the walk back up to the car. But it was all worth it.

After a lovely dinner and another early night I was ready for what Sunday was going to bring us.

In the morning I rang at All Saints’, Hordle. They were a wonderfully friendly bunch of ringers and I thanked them very much for letting me join them. I was asked ‘So how long have you been ringing?’ Subtracting on a Sunday morning is not easy so I replied ‘Since 1986’. There was a stunned silence, so I quickly replied ‘But Sunday isn’t right without ringing first thing.’ As I arrived a little early I had a wander around the churchyard. They really are the most beautiful places.

Once I got back to the hotel Mark and I packed all our bits up and then headed to go and see our son George at university as it was his 21st birthday that day.

We took him out for lunch at Wagamamas and then back to his house to sing happy birthday and have some cake. A couple of his housemates were there as well so they joined in. I left the cake with him to share with his friends later and was sent a drunken video about 10pm of them all singing to him.

We left George around 4pm as he was going bowling with his mates. We arrived home about 7.30pm exhausted.

Monday was spent food shopping and various chores. The afternoon was spent in the garden. Lots to sort out, prick out, water, plants, weed….the list goes on.

Here’s my May update which I hope you find useful.

Have a wonderful week,

Claire xx

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Easter weekend 7th – 10th April 2023!

It was practically a 4 day weekend, although I did work on Good Friday, but only for a couple of hours so that was ok. The rest of the long weekend was spent doing all sorts of things, mainly in the garden.

George was back home for Easter and it was wonderful to see him and have just the 5 of us over the weekend. Easter is never a big thing in our house, it’s mainly a time to get lots of things on my ‘To do’ list done, which I did.

The weather was a little bit “meh” for some of the weekend as the kids put it sometimes. Friday was spent food shopping and general house chores.

Saturday it rained a bit in the morning, so George and I spent the morning baking Easter treats.

And the afternoon was sunny so George and I went in the garden and laid a paving slab path together. He’s such a helpful little chap to his mummy.

The plants are enjoying the warmer weather and light rain, the tulips are starting to open which means Summer isn’t far off.

Saturday evening we all went to the cinema to see Superman: The Movie, you know the best one with Christopher Reeve. There is something so special about seeing that moving on the big screen, which was a first for all of us. The music, the classic swooshing of the credits at the beginning, the red pants on the outside of your trousers. When George was little it was his favourite film and he wore his Superman outfit all day, everyday. When that was in the wash I did what I could with the rest of his clothes. I was even asked in the playground at school if he actually owned any clothes. He did, but he chose not to wear them. He wore his Superman outfit to the Natural History Museum, IKEA and to Gatwick Airport. If we lost him we knew exactly what he was wearing. Did I lose him? Well that’s for me to know and you to never find out. He’s like a pigeon, he homes.

I also managed to get a little bit of my birthday Lego started. It’s a fiddly little bugger of a one to do but it’s great fun. Doubt I’ll finish it this weekend but little and often is the key.

Sunday Mark and George went to Star Wars Celebration at the Excel centre. This is our birthday present to him. He’s going to be 21 at the end of April. Yes that little chap rubbing his nose dressed in his Superman outfit is going to be 21! How did that happen? George got to meet his Darth Vader hero Hayden Christensen. He also bought some more Lego and various other bits. He works hard so he can spend his money.

While they were off in London or Star Wars land, I rang a quarter peal at once church from 7am-8am, had a fry up, and then rung at my home tower from 9.30am-10am. I was home a little before 10.30, so after a cup of tea and maybe another hot crossed bun I spent the rest of the day (it was glorious sunshine) in the garden. I weeded, tidied, pricked out, spread wood chips along the back path, chatted to the chickens, sowed seeds and generally got loads done and had a wonderful time.

The boys were back home for dinner so Easter Sunday dinner was my version of the French Cassoulet. It was very tasty and delicious and just what we all needed after our exhausting days.

Monday was typical Bank Holiday weather, yes it rained. So it was time to do a bit more baking. I’m going on a canal boat holiday in May, with 7 other bell ringers, and I volunteered to do the afternoon tea food, so I’ve been baking and putting it in the freezer so it’ll be perfect for when we need it. When we’re set up for the tea I’ll take photos and post them on Facebook for you all to see.

Back to work Tuesday after a lovely long and well deserved Easter break.

Hope you all had a wonderful long weekend also.

Happy gardening

Claire xx

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April sowings directly outside……

I seem to have all my April seeds finally sown in the greenhouses and I’ve also pricked out everything that I can. I’m sure in a couple of weeks time there will be loads more to do. The greenhouses are filling up very nicely and the weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer so all is good in the world.

So now it’s time to sow any April seeds that need to be sown directly outside into the soil. There aren’t many, but here goes……

Once I’d weeded the area I wanted to use and then turned the soil over a little and levelled it off I got to work. First of all was a line of Beetroot. Which ever variety you have sow them in the same way. This year I’ve got “Chioggia” which I love.

Here’s how I sow mine….

Next it was onto the Radish. Now these are best sown a few at a time, that is unless you eat a huge amount of them. I sowed a sort row which was about a metre long. When I start to harvest these I’ll sow another row, and so on until about September time. Radish tend to prefer slightly cooler shady spots, as the strong hot sun tends to make them bolt. Whatever varieties you have this year they need to be sown in exactly the same way. The varieties I have this year are “Logo” and “French Breakfast 3” (what’s happened to 1 and 2 I don’t know, maybe they’re plain and chocolate croissants?). Oh shush Claire stop being so silly.

Here’s how I sow my Radish seeds…..

Then it was on to my Carrots and Spring onions. Now these are best sown next to each other because the smell of each one deters the naughty little critters that like to eat the other one. Spring Onions are part of the allium family so you can always substitute Spring Onions for Leeks, Onion sets (or small plants), pots of Chives or even garlic. I tend to sow alternate rows of alliums and carrots.

The Spring Onions I’m growing this year are “Guardsman” and this is how I sow mine….

My carrot varieties I’ve mixed all together and the 2 varieties I have are “Rainbow” and “Paris Market Atlas”. But what ever carrots you decide to grow they need to be sown in exactly the same way, so here’s how I sow mine…..

Don’t forget my April update, hopefully it’ll help you this month…..

Click HERE for my Claire’s Allotment Essentials book is available which is packed full of all sorts of useful information.

Don’t forget I have little individual guides as well for just 99p. Click HERE to see them all.

Click HERE for Lottie and Dottie as they’ve been busy in the garden as well. Some of the books are running very low and once they’re gone that’s it. So get them while you can.

Happy long Easter Weekend everyone and you can eat chocolate because you’ll burn off all those calories out in the garden. If you think of it that way then chocolate has no calories in it at all…..cake is the same.

Happy gardening!

Claire xx

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Monday 3rd & Tuesday 4th April 2023 – Free afternoons!!

The clients that I was at both these mornings only need me for a half day at this time of year. Give it until next month and I’ll be back to full days. But that means I have the afternoons to myself. So after popping along to our local independent garden centre to buy 6 more bags of compost and running a few other errands, I was then home in time for lunch and the entire afternoon was spent in my garden doing all sorts.

I’ve now sown all my April seeds, which is a bit unheard of for me, but I’m going away for a week at the beginning of May so I need to make sure that my little plants are big enough to cope without their mummy. I’ll leave strict instructions for the rest of the family as to how to look after them properly. Fingers crosses they’ll be ok. It’s like leaving your new born baby with someone who’s not used to children, or am I over worrying? I might ask the family if I can FaceTime my seedlings and chickens while I’m away then they don’t think I’ve abandoned them.

But back to all the April seeds, there are a lot of them, and I’ve grouped them together so here goes……

We’ll start with some herbs. These need to be sown in exactly the same way. The Herbs I’ve sow in this week are: Coriander “Leisure” and “Lemon“, Basil “Genovese”, Oregano and Sage.

The video below I filmed in January a few years back, but the same applies now. I hope you find it helpful….

Now let’s move onto a few more brassicas. There are so many different ones to choose from. The brassicas that I sowed last month I’ve now pricked out and put in individual pots. They’re very easy to prick out. Whichever brassicas you have they all need to be pricked out in the same way….

But these are the ones I’m sowing this month: Wok Broc “Kichi”, Kale “Dwarf Green Curled“, and Cauliflowers “Di Sicilia Violetto” & “Romanesco”. What ever brassicas you have they all need to be sown in the same way. This is how I sow mine….

Now let’s move onto the Cucurbits. You know when the weather is soon warming up because you start to sow your Courgettes and Pumpkins. I’ve already sown my Butternut Squash, which haven’t woken up yet, so I may check those this weekend and maybe sow a few more. But here goes…..Pumpkins “Atlantic Giants” I’m trying again for a huge one. Courgettes “Sunstripe” & “Green Bush” and some outside Cucumbers “Alficoz” Hopefully you can find some local to where you live, I bought mine in Spain.

The last of my Sweetcorn “Lark” seeds was next. They are a few years old so I don’t expect the germination rate to be brilliant which is why I sowed 4 seeds per pot rather than the usual 2.

Now another load of varieties of Lettuce and their close relatives. The first lot of lettuce I sowed last month I’ve now pricked out in small groups and potted them on, so once you’ve done that it’s time to start the next batch. So these are the ones I sowed today: Chicory “Rossa di Trevisco”, Rocket, Lettuce “Mixed” and some Swiss Chard (I know it’s more closely related to Beetroot but I’m putting it in with the lettuce then it doesn’t feel left out).

If you’ve managed to get to the end of this blog then thank you for reading all of my bumblings. Here’s my latest April Update that was filmed at the beginning of April. Hopefully it has all the information you need….

Happy April!! Happy Easter!! Happy Gardening!!

See you soon,

Claire xxxx

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Sunday 2nd April 2023 – I’ve run out of compost again!!

This year I’m getting compost as and when I need it (which at this time of year is frequently). They have a special deal at our local independent garden centre on compost when you buy 3 bags, so I’m buying 3 bags at a time. However with so many seedlings to sow and especially prick out, 3 bags doesn’t last long, as I’m sure you can imagine. Maybe when I go tomorrow I’ll buy 6 bags.

The wind is coming from the north east today so it rather bitey, so I think the best place for me to have been today is in the greenhouses, which I was. There was lots of pricking out to do, and I still have more to do, but here goes on what I did today…….

I started with pricking out my mixed Lettuce and Endives. These I did in little groups of 3 or 4. You don’t have to be exact, but as I pick the leaves off both these as and when I need them, then they don’t need to be pricked out individually. I’ll sow some more Lettuce seeds this coming week so that when this lot are done I have more to replace them.

Here’s a little video that will hopefully help you…..

Then it was on to the Kohl Rabi and Autumn Broc seedlings. They weren’t quite large enough last weekend, but they have enjoyed the warmer weather so have grown enough. These I pricked out the same as I have done all my other brassicas. They are a rather odd vegetable, and not particularly well know, but they are so tasty and easy to grow they need much more recognition than they have at the moment. Maybe I should start a Kohl Rabi revolution?

Here’s a little video I made a few years ago which has all the information you need about pricking out brassicas…..

The first lot of Parsley was also ready to prick out, and just like the Lettuce I pricked them out into little clumps of 3 or 4 seedlings together. I’ll sow some more very soon, but Parsley is a biennial, which means it grows leaves the first year and then flowers and sets seed the following year. So it’s wise to sow some every year and then you’ll get a good supply. Whether you have flat leaf or curly treat them exactly the same.

Then the final job for the day was to start (and see how far I got with) pricking out the Hollyhocks. Last year I bought home a load of seed heads from clients gardens, dried the seed heads in my garage, sowed some about 3 weeks ago and now they need pricking out. I do love Hollyhocks, they are just so majestic swaying in the breeze. They do grow very tall, but are perfect for a cottage garden display. It’s not too late to sow any, but if you want to order small plants then you can. They are perennials so will come back year after year and just get bigger.

I didn’t quite finish pricking them all out as I ran out of compost, and anyway it was getting late and I had to go and wash all the dirt off my hands before I went bell ringing. Still a great day in the greenhouses. Monday is a half day so I’ll buy more compost and then carry on. Got to film the April edition tomorrow as well so I’d better got and charge my microphone. The greenhouses are filling up nicely….so glad I have 3 of them.

Hope you all have a wonderful and happy week.

Claire xxx

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Sunday 26th March 2023 – Pretty flowers and an afternoon in the garden pricking out.

The weekend before was Mother’s Day, and Mark and I went down to see our son at university. Our daughter and her boyfriend were also away seeing his parents so it was a rather unusual Mother’s Day albeit a different way to spend Mother’s Day. So that weekend I didn’t get anything done in the garden because the Saturday it poured with rain.

So this weekend, after a morning bell ringing and picking up paving slabs and spending my birthday money (yes it was my birthday on 21st March, I’m 49 now!!), after lunch I slipped on my wellybobs and went outside into the garden. My two almond trees are in full blossom at the moment, hopefully this means that I’ll get more than 3 almonds this year.

The primulas and various other flowers in the fairy garden are looking so colourful as well as the daffodils. The tulips are thinking about opening, but I think it’s still a little too cold for them.

There was lots to do in the greenhouses so after checking if anything needed watering I began pricking out more seedlings.

My tomato seedlings are growing fast, so I pricked out as many as I could. I suspect few more will grow, so where I’m going to grow all these I don’t know. When sowing them, you only think you’re sowing a few, maybe they multiply in the compost? Once I’ve pricked them out, I give them a quick water from above which helps the compost to fill in around the seedling and then from the bottom so the compost can draw up the water and encourage the roots to grow down.

Here’s a video about pricking out tomato seeds, hope you find it useful…..

Then it was onto my leeks. The Elefant variety are germinating better than the Musselburgh variety. I think that’s because one set of seeds is slightly older than the other. My onions aren’t quite ready to prick out yet, but will be in about a weeks time so I’ll prick them out in the same way as I do my leeks.

Here’s a little video that I made a while ago to help you…..

Then it was onto the brassicas. Most have shot up so fast, with the exception of the Greyhound Cabbage, but I know these seeds are so old anyway. I think I’ll have to finally throw these away. But the others are growing well, so I worked my way through them all this afternoon.

Hope you find this video useful when pricking out yours…..

And finally the chard which I pricked out the same way as I did the brassicas, but instead of putting 1 seedling per pot I clumped them together in 3’s or 4’s. You don’t have to be exact with the numbers but they don’t mind having a couple of buddies with them.

So that was it for the day. Don’t forget I have my Claire’s Allotment Essentials Guides, click HERE to go straight to my page. Or there is the Bumper Edition either on Kindle or Paper Editions

The young budding gardeners aren’t left out either as I have my Lottie and Dottie books available only on my Etsy page. Get them while you can as stock is very low on a couple of the titles and once they’re gone there won’t be anymore.

Happy gardening and see you next weekend,

Claire xx

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Sunday 12th March 2023 – Pricking out and lots of sowing.

Saturday morning was filled with house chores and food shopping, and the afternoon was filled with a bell ringing competition, so there was no time in the day to pop out in the garden. So on Sunday after a little morning ringing (usual) and then a tip trip (not usual) first thing, when I finally got home I was in the garden for the rest of the day.

I finished pricking out the “Elefant” leeks that were large enough. Give it a week or so and the smaller ones will be large enough.

Here’s a video to help you….

The weather is a little interchangeable at the moment, some days are cold, others are lovely and warm. The poor seeds don’t know if they’re coming or going. But some are popping their heads through and are being brave. My first Melon is saying hello so hopefully the rest will follow shortly.

The chillies are also thinking about it but again I think they’re waiting for warmer weather.

Still I had lots more seeds to sow so here goes……

Brassicas first. Brussels Sprouts “Trafalgar”, Kohl Rabi “Kref” and “Green Delicacy”, Calabrese “Ironman”, Cabbage “Greyhound”, Broccoli “Green Calabrese”, Celery “Green Sleeves” and Swiss Chard “Fordhook Giant”.

Whatever brassicas you are sowing, they need to be sown in the same way, this is how I sow mine….

Italian Giant Leaf Parsley is a wonderful herb to grow in a pot either inside on the window sill or outside in the garden. I tend to sow some each month from March through to about September, that way I have a continuous supply throughout the year…..that is unless any bunnies that find their way into the garden don’t eat it first.

Hopefully this video will help you with sowing yours…..

Salad leaves are another one to sow little and often. I’ve got lots of different varieties, so I sowed just a couple this time “Mild Salad Leaves” and Endives. Next month I’ll sow some different varieties.

Here’s how I sow mine…..

Next a few flower seeds. Flowers are incredibly important in the veg patch as they attract pollinators. The ones I’ve sown this month are “Summer Picking Flowers” and Poached Egg Plant…well I do have chickens after all. I sowed these on moist compost and then sprinkled a little more compost on the top.

All the above were sown in seed trays, but the following I sowed in small square pots. I sowed two seeds per pot at diagonal corners. If both seeds germinate, don’t worry about separating them they’ll grow quite happily together.

Winter Squash “Hunter” and some Pumpkins. I’ve mixed all my Pumpkins together, so it’ll be interesting to see which ones I have. Which ever variety you have they need to be sown in the same way. They’re all edible so it doesn’t matter what I get. Make sure you don’t mix ornamental gourds in as they’re inedible.

Here’s how I sow mine….

A few more flowers but this time Nasturtiums “Tall Single”. These I tend to have growing up the canes with my French and Runner beans as they really do bring in the bees. The flowers and leaves are also edible, but they will also grow perfectly well in hanging baskets, pots and up any structure.

And finally the first sowing of the Peas “Shiraz” are the variety I have this year. But whatever variety of pea, mangetout or sugar snap you have, they need to be sown in the same way. Again these I’ll sow a few each month from March until September that way I’ll have a good supply through out the summer and into the autumn.

Here’s how I sow mine….

Apart from spreading a bit more manure and having a quick weed that was all for Sunday. I’ll keep an eye on everything in the greenhouses and hopefully next weekend they’ll be more to do. For many of you who ask me if my greenhouses are heated, the answer is no not artificially. I have bubble wrap on the inside, and use the sun for heating. I don’t use heaters or electricity of any form to germinate my seeds faster. I find that if you let them germinate naturally they seem to be stronger. Maybe that’s me, but that’s my view.

If you missed my March 2023 update then here it is…..

Happy Spring everyone, the clocks change very soon and we’ll finally be in British Summer Time!!!! Yay!!

Have a great week and see you soon xxxx

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