Keyword Gardeners' Question Time

An occasional series answering the questions found in my Keyword Search statistics which won't have found an answer on my blog. Note: some of these are useful but others may need to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt ;)

Have blog, now what?

That blank page is a bit scary isn't it? If you're stuck for ideas, then find some blogs you like and start reading: not only the blog, but the comments too. Add your own comments and if you find yourself writing a really long reply, then you've found your next post: a reply on your own blog, acknowledging the original entry. Gardening Gone Wild have a fantastic ideas gallery for garden bloggers you might find useful too.

Can you have a bird box and vegetables together?

Absolutely, as long as they don't house pigeons who'll eat all your brassicas before you can say 'knife'. Most other birds nesting nearby will gleefully hoover up those nasty aphids, slugs, caterpillars and most other pests keeping a beady eye on your crops.

I didn't label my veg plants, now I don't know which is which?

Have a look at the photos in a good vegetable book, to help you determine the broad families of plants you have at least. For example, sweetcorn and tomatoes should be easy to identify, but you probably won't be able to sort out your courgettes from your squash or pumpkins; your peppers from your chillis; or your onions from your leeks until much later. However, if you're looking to identify which varieties you've sown, that's usually impossible until they're ready to harvest. Be brave, plant them all and enjoy your crops at random ;)

I buy jam jar lids from Lakeland, do I still need to cover the jam in greaseproof paper?

It depends on how long you want to keep your jam for. No matter how full your jar is, you will still have a tiny air gap at the top. The greaseproof paper (applied so that it seals your jam) protects it from any bacteria in that air and thus prevents mould forming on the top. If you're going to eat it all up straight away, or are prepared to keep your jam in your fridge, then you can get away without using the greaseproof paper.

Is it worth making jam out of damsons? and Does damson jam have the skins in it?

Yes. It's one of the very best and my recipe for damson jam is in my top ten posts of all time. There's also a fantastic crop of damsons this year and it'd be a shame not to make use of them. The jam does contain the skins: it's fiddly enough getting the stones out when they float up to the surface of the jam without having to remove these as well. When cooking, you need to ensure the fruit is softened and well broken up before adding the sugar, otherwise the skins will be tough.

NB If you're wondering what the pictured Corsham Gardeners' Question Time was, the link will tell you all about it :)

I've done this kind of post in the past, so you'll find further notes and queries under the Question Time label.


  1. really great advice and its given me some useful tips for future posts on my blog. looking forward to seeing you tomorrow as Wisley. Amanda x

  2. Hi Amanda - glad you like the post. I got the idea from Poor Richard's Almanac originally: their answers are even more irreverent and funny than mine :)

    See you tomorrow - hurrah!

  3. Hi Janet - shame you don't live closer, my friend K is desperate for people to come and harvest the damsons from her tree...


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