Showing posts from April, 2012

Things in Unusual Places #10: The Snail

Despite the recent rain, I've been popping up to the allotment between the showers to finish clearing the ground and plant up this year's crops. There's also been a fair few things to bring back with me as they no longer fit my scheme after giving up half the plot last year.

A heavy shower sent me scurrying homewards on Friday. I also hastily dumped a pile of stuff in our lobby ready for finding new homes for various things when the weather cleared up (ha ha). It looks like I had an extra passenger in the car with me at the time as I found the pictured scene on Saturday afternoon!

Have you found an unusual visitor in your house lately?

Salad Days: Experimental Salad

Hello and welcome to April's Salad Days, our monthly get together to see how everyone's been getting on with their Salad Challenge:)

April's miserable weather here in the UK has seen plant growth slow right down after March's unseasonal warmth. Ironically it also means there's been no need to use hosepipes during their ban! This must be the wettest drought in living memory ;)

For me, allotment time is taking precedence between the showers, so I've been trying some quick experimental salad growing on the windowsill this month.

I've been given some biochar seed compost to trial and having a couple of identical little trays to hand, I decided to compare rocket sown using the biochar in one tray and John Innes seed compost in the other. The biochar tray is the one on the right.

I put the same amount of seed compost and then sowed 80 rocket seeds (from a freshly opened packet) as evenly spaced as I could on each tray. I covered the seeds and watered lightly. In…

Wordless Wednesday: Reflecting Pool


Edible Flowers For Your Salad

Tulips overlooking the more conventional edibles at The Organic Garden at Holt Farm last week

Last Saturday I received my order of climbing Fuchsia plants from Thompson & Morgan. Tucked inside with the usual cultivation leaflet was another on edible flowers. How timely, seeing they're on my list ofSalad Challenge posts lined up for you :)

I've been eyeing up my garden in a completely different way ever since. The list names an amazing 69 edible flowers. 20 of them I've tried already (including our summer salad stalwart, nasturtiums); 26 I knew about but have yet to try, which leaves a further 23 surprises. They also helpfully list another 28 to especially avoid as they're poisonous.

Since Saturday I've added apple blossom*, tulip and strawberry* to the flowers I've tried. All were very tasty and sweet. I particularly enjoyed the tulip which was a more substantial mouthful and [to me] tasted like a cross between pea and bean. It was enjoyed as much for my sur…

Horticulture: A Career To Be Proud Of

It was a privilege to attend the RHS' conference on Horticulture: A Career To Be Proud Of in London yesterday. It's part of National Gardening Week and was arranged in response to two rather shocking things:
David Cameron's recent comparison of gardening with litter pickingA RHS commissioned survey showing most young people consider horticulture as a career only suitable for the unskilled It's clear horticulture has an image problem. In contrast the 21 speakers yesterday were admirable ambassadors, demonstrating clearly just how good an option horticulture is for a career. The array of speakers was glittering and the day was chaired by Alan Titchmarsh.
I took loads of notes - far too many to post as it would be soooo long. For me the best part of the day was hearing the four young people who spoke so eloquently about their struggle to get started in horticulture. I wish I could bottle their enthusiasm and love for their jobs and get everyone to have a good long sniff.

Wordless Wednesday: Traffic Jam Tulips


The Organic Garden at Holt Farm Revisited

On Friday I had the pleasure of returning to The Organic Garden at Holt Farm to see my friend Eileen, the rest of the garden team and finally to get to meet the garden's inspiring owner, Sarah Mead. As you can see we had much better weather than for my last visit!

However, my main reason for going wasn't just to have a good natter and nose around the garden. Oh no. They're hosting a monthly series of talks to raise funds for Horatio's Garden at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Injuries Treatment Centre in Salisbury. On Friday it was Alys Fowler's turn to give her talk on Edible Gardening. I've wanted to hear her speak for a very long time so here was an ideal opportunity to do that (and learn loads), visit one of my favourite gardens, eat scrummy food and all whilst supporting an immensely good cause. Sheer perfection.
Both Alys' talk and Horatio's Garden deserve posts of their own, so I'll be writing about them soon. Suffice to say that following her ta…

GBBD: Tulip Time

The tulips are out and much in evidence wherever I go, like the tulip festival at Dyrham Park I showed you last week. They also seem to be telling the story of our strange season this year as everyone's talking about having stumpy tulips!

The subject cropped up again last Friday when I revisited The Organic Garden at Holt Farm - more to come - and we concluded the dry winter's to blame, though I'm also wondering whether the unseasonally warm winter meant they didn't get enough chilling time. The warm weather in February/March started them flowering early too and the colder weather of the past couple of weeks has slowed their decline. It means my display is lasting much longer than usual.
The pictured 'Spring green' seems to be one of the more reliable varieties - no stumpy tulips here thank goodness - and are standing proud in the large pot I have of them in the front garden. This is their third year of flowering with no sign of their blooms getting smaller, unli…

Supermarket Sweep - A Quick Look at Bagged Salads

One of the reasons why I started The 52 Week Salad Challenge was when I realised the bagged salads we're buying are much more expensive - weight for weight - than buying meat. Not only did that seem a crazy thing to be doing, I immediately realised that here was a golden opportunity to make a big saving on our weekly food bill.
Since then I've been having a closer look at precisely what's on offer in our supermarkets. Whilst the shelves are stacked high with lots of different salads e.g. sweet, baby leaf, bistro, herb, Italian, individual leaves and suchlike, the actual mix of leaves in each of these types is quite limited. The total number of different leaves used for the various mixed bagged salads is around 24. The maximum number I've found in an individual salad is six (and even that isn't guaranteed) and the more typical packet has just 3 to 4 different kinds.
Already we've seen that even in winter the number of different leaves available for cropping is mu…

Wordless Wednesday: Tulip Festival


Make History With Your Garden

Put 17th April (a week today) in your diary right now! As part of National Gardening Week, the RHS is asking us to share our pictures of our plots, in order to create the ultimate 'snapshot' of Britain's gardens in 2012. Those of you who remember my 12:34:56 on 07/08/09 meme, know how much I love capturing these moments in time :)

The aim is to record and share the styles and trends seen in our gardens today. Next Tuesday we're requested to post our favourite picture of our own front or back garden, taken in the past year, onto the Gardens of the Nation flickr group. Or perhaps you might like to take a picture on that particular day (weather permitting!)?
I've had a lot of fun looking back through my pictures from last year - taking part in Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day every month means there's quite a few photos to go through. I finally chose the pictured overhead shot of our back garden from last October because it's the last view I have with both flow…

Have You Seen This Gnome?

This highly subversive individual [who apparently answers to the name of Borage - Ed] is reported to have escaped from his house of confinement to cause mayhem at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, where gnomes are strictly banned from proceedings. All sightings are to be reported to stand PW30 where his guards are anxious to ensure the more genteel and civilised proceedings usually associated with the event may resume.

Rumours he is in deep negotiations with RHS Council candidate James Alexander-Sinclair to deliver the gnomic block vote in return for a better deal for all garden ornaments were hotly denied by Mr Alexander-Sinclair yesterday before he returned to his dinner with a representative from the meercat contingent.

Normal broadcasts from this blog will continue shortly after the author returns from her trip to Chelsea ;)

Salads for Awkward Situations #1: Drought

Nasturtiums on my allotment last year
As the awaited hosepipe ban came into force for much of eastern and southern England yesterday, and with other parts of the country probably set to follow suit, I thought it'd be a good idea to look at which salad crops (both leaves and supplements) stand up to less watering.

The selection for your delectation (in no particular order) is: Edible flowers such as nasturtiums, marigolds and violas - I've decided to keep my winter potted violas growing over the summer to see how they do, both drought and salad-wise. Nasturtiums are already a firm summer salad favourite with NAH and me :)Beetroot - I grow 'Bull's blood' for its leaves and they're deliciousSpinach - I love these grown as baby leavesCarrots - not forgetting their leaves are edible too!Peas - pea shoots have become a firm favourite and I can vouch for their drought tolerant capabilities - I haven't been that good at watering my windowsill crops :oChard - I'm…

Wordless Wednesday: Norton St Philip - Last Wednesday


GBMD: A Seed

Teeny tiny birch seedlings and moss on my patio - I won't be letting any of these grow into a tall, green tree!

See how a Seed, which Autumn flung down,
And through the Winter neglected lay,
Uncoils two little green leaves and two brown,
With tiny root taking hold on the clay
As, lifting and strengthening day by day,
It pushes red branchless, sprouts new leaves,
And cell after cell the Power in it weaves
Out of the storehouse of soil and clime,
To fashion a Tree in due course of time;
Tree with rough bark and boughs' expansion,
Where the Crow can build his mansion,
Or a Man, in some new May,
Lie under whispering leaves and say,
"Are the ills of one's life so very bad
When a Green Tree makes me deliciously glad?"
As I do now. But where shall I be
When this little Seed is a tall green Tree?

William Allingham (1824-1889)