Showing posts from August, 2012

Last Call For Winter Salads

The August Bank Holiday always signals my noticing the nights are drawing in and we've even had frost mentioned in the weather forecast this week (yes frost! In the balmy south-west! In August!).

So now's a good time to plan ahead and make the final salad sowings to see us through the winter months. It's a bit of a race against time, because the ever decreasing daylength and temperature means it's important for sowings to have sufficient time to grow enough leaves before they effectively grind to a halt in October/November.

There's still time to sow the absolute winter stalwarts until mid September: peppery land cress, rocket (I prefer wild), lamb's lettuce and winter purslane. These usually resist whatever the winter throws at them, even when they're left outdoors.

The 52 Week Salad Challenge means I'm also trying some new tastes for this year in the shape of various oriental leaves. I was impressed by everyone's reports of Mizuna doing well at the…

Things in Unusual Places #12: Cats

Seeing cats have a bit of a reputation re their wildlife catching habits, I was surprised to see this rather ironic looking bird bath at my local garden centre recently.

Ahhh, but these are fluffy little kittens, I hear you cry, what harm can they do?

Judging by the expression on this one's face, quite a lot. It looks like it can't wait for its next meal ;)

Right Plant, Wrong Place: Blackberry

We've had an invasion from all quarters at VP Gardens recentlywhich has crept up unnoticed until now. This summer's wet weather has kept me indoors a lot more and it's only in the past couple of weeks I've found lots of enormous brambles coming into the garden over the trees and shrubs. The pictured blackberries have come in from the neighbours behind us and there's quite a few more out front coming over from the public land next door.

The reason why I've noticed now is because we've been feasting on the blackberries, which is what makes it the right plant. However, it's beginning to take over the garden somewhat which makes it wrong place. I'm going to have to call upon NAH to squeeze himself behind the fence to do some major chopping work pretty soon, especially as the pigeons have also found the feast on offer and I don't want to have to dig up lots of mini bramble next spring.

When I was at Karen's recently, she mentioned de-thorned bra…

Salad Days: Of Pesky Pests and Dread Diseases

When I began the52 Week Salad Challenge earlier in the year, it was safe in the knowledge we were starting at the most difficult time for growing salad leaves and that things would get much easier as the year progressed.

Then came the drought that was March and early sowings failed to thrive. That was followed by the record deluge of April, May and June, which is still making itself felt from time to time. So it's a super bad year for slugs and snails, who've feasted and gorged themselves on my lettuces until I had nothing left but tiny stumps. Later sowings are now thriving - after a number of torchlight searches and removals of offending critters -  thank goodness.

After a slow start owing to the unseasonally cool weather we've had for most of the year, other pests and diseases are now beginning to make themselves felt. Flea beetles are adding their characteristic tiny holes to my rocket; cabbage white butterflies are laying eggs on my mustards and as for vine weevil, I…

When Penpals Get Seedy

I may have received a number of items in brown envelopes at the weekend, but happily they're not of the dodgy kind, though they are distinctly seedy :)

It's all down to Carl and Mel who've organised the fab Seedy Penpals scheme.

I've played 'pass the parcel' before over at Allotments4All, but this is a more personal  and cheaper way of exchanging seeds as there's no ginormous parcel to pass on to the next person in line.

Effectively I have 2 penpals: one who sends me seeds and the other I send seeds to. We have a discussion first about gardening experience and style, plus any preferences or dislikes, so the seed sender can pick out the spare packets in their stash which fit the bill. My selection is winging its way to Amsterdam - a place firmly in the affections of both NAH and I as we honeymooned there.

Seeds will be exchanged twice a year (in February 2013 next time) and we'll be blogging at the end of each month about how we're getting on with t…

And the Winner Is...

I've consulted my trusty terracotta pot, and the winner of my yummy Yeo Valley competition is one of my twitter entrants, @Miss_Beehivin aka Zoe Lynch :)

Fate must have taken a hand because Zoe's latest post on her blog describes how to make damson gin: very fitting as the prize is helping to launch Yeo Valley's limited edition damson and plum yoghurt.

Thanks to everyone who took part. This turned out to be my most popular competition yet and I'm so pleased the prospect of a plum or Discovery apple tree inspired so many of you to leave a comment about what your choice of tree would be.

As well as looking at Zoe's recipe, you may also like mine for damson jam - it's my most popular blog post of all time :)

Update: Zoe's already planning on what she'll do with her tree :)

Tried and Trusted: Lettuce

For anyone starting to grow their own, the choice of seeds on offer can seem mind boggling. Even narrowing the options down to just salad leaves can still be a bit daunting, especially if the grower is used to the limited choice of varieties available at the supermarket.

So it's been great to see your successes mentioned on Salad Days or tweeted to #saladchat because I'm definitely seeing a number of tried and trusted varieties being mentioned again and again. I thought I'd compile a couple of posts with your recommendations. It's especially pleasing to do so as I can at last acknowledge some of the great contributions I've received via #saladchat.

Lettuce forms the basis of many salads, so today's post is confined to their varieties. I'm sure there's something new for everyone to try. NB The Constant Gardener has put together a great guide to the types of lettuce available which is a useful read. I'll cover recommendations for other types of leave…

GBBD: Busy Bees

If the embedded video above doesn't work, then try this link instead.

The bees seem to be much busier than usual in my garden this month. Perhaps the rainy spring and summer means they're trying to make up for lost time.

They're so busy, even NAH noticed. Not only that, he then fetched his camera to take a short movie of them on my Echinops - thanks NAH :)

Note: if anyone buys any Allington honey from our local farm shop over the next few months, you could be getting a taste of my garden :)

It was interesting to see that honey bees were almost exclusively feeding on the Echinops and ignoring the other delights on offer. Elsewhere, various species of bumble bees were gorging themselves on the DahliasEryngiums, Echinacea, perennial sunflowersand lavender but were curiously absent from the Echinops.

Further close observation is required to see if this was a one-off event or a distinct preference...

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

How to Clean a Patio the Easy Peasy Way...

Grow some 'sentinel conifers' in the wrong place for 12 yearsEventually get around to getting a man in to remove themAsk him to leave a massive pile of branches so you can make lots and lots (and lots!) of mulchHave the wettest spring and summer on record so you can't shred the branches straight awayAfter several months, finally get the patio cleared of all debrisEt voila!  The difference to the naked eye is even more marked than the camera picked up yesterday. I'm pondering whether it's covering up the patio, the acidity from the wet branches or both factors which have cleaned the black lichen from the slabs.
Just in case we have another 'wettest drought on record' with its accompanying hosepipe ban, it's worth remembering this approach doesn't use any tap water ;)

Travellers' Salad: Places to Visit

Holiday time is the ideal time to discover some new gardens, so I thought I'd highlight some of my favourites from both near and far which you might like to include on your itinerary.

Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire was a first for me this year and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. The garden has many good things, but seeing this is a post for the 52 Week Salad Challenge, today I'm highlighting their rather good kitchen garden.

The Organic Garden at Holt Farm in Somerset has become a firm favourite of mine since my first visit last year. Go there for lunch and you get to help yourself to loads of fresh organic salad from the large bowls on offer.

A garden in the rain in February isn't usually the best way to see a garden, but I fell in love with West Dean Gardens when I went there last year. There wasn't any salad on view at the time, but I'm sure there's plenty there now, especially as this is the home of the Totally Tomato Show.

In fact anywhere with a wall…

Wordless Wednesday: Strolling


Unusual Front Gardens #12: Canalside

Just like Dr Foster, NAH and I went to Gloucester in a shower of rain yesterday. A few seconds after I took this photo, it was hammering it down and we had to run for shelter.

Wherever narrowboats have a permanent mooring, it's pretty much guaranteed their roofs and other outside areas will sprout a host of various pots and containers so the owners can grow a few herbs or salads for dinner, or lots of flowers to sit alongside the colourful traditional canal art usually painted on each boat.

At Gloucester Docks the pots have been transferred canalside (we're at Victoria Basin) to provide a colourful walkway instead. I learned later that the residents were winners in the Street Regeneration Competition in 2007, held as part of Gloucester in Bloom. It's good to see they've kept going :)

Travellers' Salad: Seattle Farmers' Market

I've found the best way to get an insight into real life whilst on holiday is to do what the locals do, especially if it involves visiting the local market. So when we went on the Seattle Fling last year, I was pleased to see a trip to a farmers' market was on the itinerary.

It proved to be a great way to spend a Sunday morning and I was struck at the time by the huge amounts of fresh salads on offer, with many of them sporting flowers, as shown in the picture above. In fact, Nasturtiums were picked out on the 'season's best' blackboard at the market's entrance. Would that happen here? Probably not.

The pictured leaves were already bagged up for sale, but elsewhere another stall had a huge queue of people waiting to buy salad by weight from enormous bags of pre-mixed leaves. The mixes on offer were very imaginative, often including herbs and flowers and with much more variety than the standard three or four different leaves we usually see in the supermarket.


GBMD: Resistance is Fertile

Spotted in the little shopping area by Kew Tube station in May :)