Showing posts from October, 2013

Unusual Front Gardens #15: Halloween

The Lle Hari restaurant in Llanrwst has had a lot of fun decorating its windowboxes along seasonal lines. They've also made a haunted hotel video to really get you in the mood!

Across the road they've continued with the Halloween theme by creating a pumpkin graveyard. I particularly like the wellies. It would be great to go back to see if the pumpkins are lit up at night - spooky.

Karen, Dobby and I had a lot of fun exploring all the features of these unusual front gardens on our way back from Bodnant a couple of weeks ago. But the biggest smile of all was on the face of the elderly lady we saw in a wheelchair, who was totally captivated by the scene.

A Bird Feeder Make for Wild About Gardens Week

Inspired by my recent foray into the world of Sugru and to celebrate Wild About Gardens week, I made a couple of simple bird feeders on Sunday. This used up my second little packet of yellow, plus a couple of left over posh pudding glass dishes and some spare tapestry wool.

The above pictures should give you an idea of how I went about it. I used a metal skewer to make the holes through which I threaded the tapestry wool - allowing a day for the sugru to harden before the threading.

These feeders won't withstand the kind of weather we had over the weekend and yesterday, but they make an attractive addition to the garden on calmer days like today. I'm considering replacing the wool with some garden wire to make a more robust feeder.

The apples you can see in the top picture are Herefordshire russet, a variety with a superb flavour. They're late to pick this year and I'll be leaving those on the hard-to-reach branches as a tithe for the birds. They seem to like their fl…

Giveaway Time: Socks Appeal

The outdoor footwear of the season is boots or wellies, so today's giveaway complements them perfectly.

I have 4 pairs each of Heat Holders wellie socks and Workforce Ultimate Comfort socks available. The wellie socks are for women (boot size 4-8) and Workforce for men (boot size 9-11), but those of you with small or large feet may like to choose accordingly. I could have done with a pair of these to keep my toes all toasty up at the allotment today!

All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment below saying which socks you'd prefer. Please make sure I can contact you, should you be a winner. You can also make extra entries if you tweet a link to this blog post (please mention @malvernmeet so I can pick up your entry), or write on my facebook wall.

I'll draw the winners next Monday morning (November 4th), so good luck!

Giveaway T&Cs

Sorry, this prize draw is only available in the UK.Entries close at midnight GMT on Sunday, November 3rd.Up to three entries are allow…

Salad Days: Lattughino verde

As my salad challenge is Mastering Lettuce this year, I was surprised to find a completely new form (to me anyway) at the Yeo Valley Organic Garden recently. This is 'Lattughino verde', which looks more like a giant wild rocket than a lettuce. Its flavour is mild, so it's one for adding bulk and visual appeal to a salad.

Most of the online information - unsurprisingly - is in Italian, but I have managed to find it in the Organic Gardening catalogue. They've put it in the loose leaf category and describe it as 'an Italian finger lettuce'. They have another of this type which looks tempting called 'Catalogna'. It's described as 'slow to bolt, hardy and quick regrowing' - sounds like an excellent candidate for the picking method.

I've added both varieties to my list of new leaves to try for next year along with the 'easy watercress' (aka Cardamine raphanifoliaEmma Cooper found at the Edulis nursery last weekend. She says it's…

Wordless Wednesday: Bucket o' Squash


Breaking the Rules: Apple Pruning

In honour of today's Apple Day, I'm returning to last month's study day at Waterperry Gardens, where we learnt lots about the summer pruning of trained apple trees such as cordons and espaliers. Note this pruning does not apply to apples grown as bush or standard trees; their pruning is confined to the winter period.

Summer pruning is carried out on the shoots growing out from the main branches. This is to increase the number of fruiting spurs on the tree for the following year and to let the sunlight through to ripen the current year's crop. The RHS guidance says that this pruning is best carried out in the third week in August in the south and around 10 days later in the north.

This guidance also says the pruning should be done when the bottom third of the new shoot is firm and woody. This timing is judged according to the tree's vigour, its location and the weather conditions at the time.

We found out this latter guidance is more important, rather than the Augu…

In the Footsteps of Plant Hunters: Evolution Plants

Yesterday was extraordinary. A new plant nursery was launched right here in Wiltshire and after a tough couple of years for the garden industry, it's great to have some unexpectedly good news to tell you. On a personal note, I'm pleased to have another quality specialist nursery so close to home.

Evolution Plants is owned by Tom Mitchell. He's a plant biologist by training, who like me languished in the world of banking until he woke up and saw sense. Well, he did admit his 'waking up' was whilst suffering from clinical depression, and all the people he consulted along the way to help make his business work said 'DON'T'.

But when a passion takes hold and no matter what the head may tell you, sometimes you have to follow your heart.

So, Tom became a plant hunter and travelled the world for 5 years collecting seeds from 3,000 plant species, some of which - including at least one new Genus - have yet to be named. Those precious seeds are now being grown on…

GBBD: A Purple Patch

I've been really pleased with how my new Salvia 'Amistad' (well, bought at RHS Tatton show in 2012) has settled into the garden this year.

It's stood up strongly to the autumnal storms which lashed their way over the garden the past couple of weeks. Seeing the stems swaying in the wind reminds me of the pictures of prayer flags I've seen fluttering over the Himalayas. You might think I'm being a bit fanciful, but I at least can see a link between the two.

It's a most dramatic plant, with its dark almost black stems holding court in my large terrace bed. They're quite a contrast to the pinks and reds you can see dotted around in the background above. It's quite tall for a Salvia, so I'm glad I've placed it in a corner, where it leans over conversationally as I make my way down the steps towards the shed.

I've been thinking quite a bit about this 'purple patch' lately. Most of my purple happens earlier in the year, though I do cur…

New Product Decisions - Your Help is Needed

Last week I was asked for my opinions about a new product Greenhouse Sensation are developing as shown above.

I've replied already, and they're keen to hear what you have to say too!

Here's what was said in the accompanying email:

We are very close to releasing a new product, we just need to confirm the colour and I would be very grateful for your thoughts on the product idea, colours etc 

The product is a more attractive and compact version of the Quadgrow, with 2x 12litre (30cm) pots and a 17 litre reservoir. It’s approximately 60cms long and 30cms wide. 

We may also create a black one which would have a slightly lower price, but a less lovely finish too and we might or might not have the option to link two units together to make a 4-pot version – though I would be grateful if you would let me have your thoughts on the usefulness of such a feature. 

If you think it would be appropriate I would be happy for you to ask your readers which of the options they prefer too. 

So no…

Welcome Grow Your Own!

A very warm welcome to Grow Your Own readers. I'm chuckling at being called an Allotment Guru in the magazine as there's always something new to learn, but then that's why I write this blog.

I hope you enjoy your visit to Veg Plotting. If you're intrigued by the mention of my biochar experiment in the magazine, then here are the results of my trial with alliums this year.

If you fancy my 52 Week Salad Challenge instead, then the link takes you to a page which summarises all my posts on the subject. You can start growing right now too!

Otherwise, you can dive straight in and read my latest posts by simply scrolling down your screen, or have a look through my Pages section to the right to see what takes your fancy.

It was great to see so many of my blogging pals featured in the Grow Your Own article - you'll find I've linked to many of them a bit further down on the right too. The links open up into new windows, so it's a bit like being able to read a number…

First Rate Gardens and Friday Cocktails

Q What does an ABBA tribute band, Arnold Schwarzaneggar and a cobbler have in common?
A They were all mentioned in the latest talk given by Mark Diacono

This was the last in the series in support of Horatio's Garden hosted by the Yeo Valley Organic Garden. It was an inspirational finale to see how Mark's ideas outlined in A Taste of the Unexpectedhave developed since publication a couple of years ago. Expect to see much more in his next book, New Kitchen Garden, where from this sneak preview I'm anticipating lots moreunusual fruit and vegetables,a hat tip totechniques such asforest gardening and plenty of edible perennials.

I also came away with a new salad leaf to try for The 52 Week Salad Challenge: Siberian purslane (Claytonia sibirica). It's a short-lived perennial, which is suitable for shade and has a beetroot flavour. The stem, leaf and flower are all edible and it's one for the spring and summer months.

Mark is developing a bit of a reputation as far as coc…

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn at Holt Farm


Take One Bag of Windfalls...

My apple harvest seems to be about 3 weeks behind schedule this year and yesterday was the first time I've had a substantial bag of windfalls to pick up at the allotment. The above picture shows what 16 pounds  of apples (aka just over 7 kilos) looks like :)

So what did I do with them yesterday evening?

Used 5lbs to make a batch of Apple Jelly (NAH will be pleased as it's his favourite)Used 1lb to make a Windfall CakeThe rest were washed, cored, chopped and microwaved in 4 huge batches, then spooned into various containers and stored in the freezer. These will be added to my daily bowl of porridge when my freshly chopped apples run out around December/January time
NB all my apples are dessert varieties - Falstaff, James Grieve, Kidd's Orange Red, Saturn, Scrumptious and Sunset in this instance - and I don't bother to peel them for these recipes.
Other options you could try: Use approx 4.5lb to make some Easy Apple Juice. Or with all the apple day events coming up and if…

Making My Watering Can Smile

I've been accumulating a list of little 'niggly' jobs to do around the house and garden lately, so last week I set out to get a few of them done.

Some of them involved using the assorted pack of sugru I've been given to try. This is a playdoh like substance which can be used to make small repairs, or added to objects to make them more usable. It can also be used to transform objects ready for another use, but that's something for another day.

The pack I was given contains small portions of various colours - 1 each of white and black, plus two each of red, blue and yellow - hence why the colour keeps changing in the following pictures ;)

The tasks I had in mind were:

Repairing a small hole in my watering canMaking the corners of my coldframes less of a hazard to walk pastRepairing a saucepan lidMaking a new hook for our airing cupboard door to hang my swimming bag (not tried yet as I'm not sure it has the strength to take the weight) Sugru is a rubber-like subst…

I Love October For...

... Apples

Many of you won't be surprised by this revelation as I've written about apples so many times, particularly in October. This post won't be the last one, I can assure you :)

October is the month when I harvest most of my apples; from the trees in my garden and those shoehorned into my allotment plot. There are enough at the latter for it to be classified as an orchard, even though it's nothing like the one I'd really like to have.

So it was a pleasure last week to find myself in the kind of orchard I'd like to call my own - lots of trees, many varieties and plenty of room to show them off at their healthy best.

Waterperry Gardens has been on my 'to see list' for a very long time, so attending the study day organised by the Garden Media Guild last Tuesday meant I'd get to see it, have the opportunity to learn something and be in some very fine company too.

Most of the afternoon was scheduled for a pruning masterclass in the orchard amongst th…

GBMD: The Meeting of the Waters

There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet 
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet!
Oh the last rays of feeling and life must depart
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart

Thomas Moore (1779 - 1852)

Ireland is famed for its literature. The likes of Wilde, Joyce and Heaney are all celebrated world-wide, but the poet who has captured the heart of the Irish - in the way Robert Burns did for the Scottish - is 'the bard of Ireland', Thomas Moore.

We know him as the poet who penned The Minstrel Boy. In County Wicklow his more lauded work is The Meeting of the Waters, the place where the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers come together to form the Avoca River.

I'd wanted to see this spot, but missed it the first time we went past as it's obscured by a large touristy pub and gift shop. But stepping beyond these trappings lies the above view and my first ever sighting of a Dipper.

NAH and I sat right at the end of a concrete platform above the river&#…