Progress in the vegetable garden

Let me start by saying that I have the best husband ever (ok, so I might be slightly biased on that one 🙂 ).

Remember the shed that I included on my vegetable garden plans? Well it’s finished, built single-handedly by the previously mentioned wonderful Mr S.

At last no more hunting around the garden looking for my tools as they now have a home of their own.

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Elsewhere in the garden everything else seems to be making a late appearance this year as the wet start to the summer delayed progress. Unfortunately our apples and plums are virtually non existent as the rain stopped the bees pollinating early in the season but we do have a glut of beetroot and courgettes!

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Update on the vegetable garden

Due to last month being the wettest June in the UK on record and July following in the same footsteps it’s no surprise that not much in the way of progress has been made in the vegetable garden.

Thankfully, this weekend offered us some fine weather and a chance to carry on with our plans.

There have been a few alterations to our original plan – the main one being that we no longer need two sheds due to our garage declutter.

After looking around at the ready-made sheds that were available locally Mr S decided that he would have a go at making the potting shed himself.

He managed to complete the frame and base which will make up the potting shed and covered seating area, hopefully it won’t be too long now untill our garden tools have somewhere to call home!

Elsewhere in this part in the garden the soggy vegetable beds are starting to dry up a little. We have already had success with our potatoes, harvesting them as we need them to ensure that they are fresh and the quantity of strawberries has surpassed previous years.

We are currently picking a pudding basin full every other day, however due to the high rainfall they aren’t lasting very well once picked and so we seem to be having an awful lot of strawberry smoothies at the moment.

The other vegetables are slowly coming on but what they really need now is some sunshine to give them a boost – they’re not the only ones 🙂

Gardeners’ World Live

This weekend we visited Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in Birmingham. This was our first visit to a garden show of this scale and so we were unsure about what to expect.

My first thought upon entering the main hall was that I was impressed with the volume of stands however upon looking more closely most of them were trade stands selling all manner of things, a lot unrelated to gardening!

Things improved considerably upon entering the RHS Floral Marquee. What an amazing sight! I have to say that we were really impressed by the scale of the stands put on by the various associations and nurseries.

Amazing Alliums

Just a small part of Birmingham City Councils award-winning display

Lilies in all their splendor

The show gardens outside were impressive and gave lots of inspiration as many featured a lot of vegetable growing. It’s at time like this that it would be nice to have a small compact garden. To recreate a garden with this much impact over half an acre would certainly be beyond our budget!

The Water Wise Garden by Brett Hardy

Coming Out To Play? by Adam Frost

For us the highlights were:

The displays in the floral marquee for sheer impressiveness

The show gardens for inspiration

Monty Don 🙂

The lows of the show were:

The sheer volume of people made it difficult to view the show gardens

In our opinion too many non relevant trade stands

The pull along trolleys – our ankles suffered!

The main highlight for me though was seeing my gardening hero Monty Don. The presenter of Gardeners’ World and a self-taught gardener, he gave a frank and insightful talk on the filming of Gardeners World which takes place in his own garden. Having seen and heard him live I can only say that I admire him even more!

Monty Don

In all we had a great day out and spoke to some interesting people who are passionate about what they do, however I’m not sure we would visit again. We felt that the commercial element outweighed the horticultural aspect of the show. Some people would find the shopping a great benefit and judging by the amount of trolleys piled high with plants and garden accessories many did but for us we felt the amount of information available was overwhelmed by the trade aspect.

So will we being going next year? Probably not – I think that this garden sums it nicely…….

I’d rather be in the garden by Helen Stewart

A Happy Accident

When we moved here the front garden was neglected and overgrown. Our plans regarding the garden at this point were a little vague as our main commitment was to get the house habitable.  We knew that we would need to create a graveled area of hard standing at the front to store our caravan but other than that the rest of the garden has evolved by accident rather than by design.

The clearing begins

We were lucky to have two established cherry trees and a rhododendron hedge as a backdrop but other than that the rest of the planting has been accidental to some extent.

As this was the only part of the garden that was plantable the few plants that came with us from our last house went in here, as did plants that were kindly donated by friends and family. Plants that were bought as gifts and even a potted Christmas tree have all ended up in here. What started life as a holding area for the plants that were to be planted elsewhere in the garden has somehow ended up looking like this……

Just a few years later!

A very happy accident indeed!

Another Busy Weekend……hic!

It was Mr S’s birthday at the weekend and whilst he had decided that he didn’t want us to buy him anything in particular there is a hobby that he has been wanting to try for a while now – cider making.

So as a birthday present from the family he received all the necessary equipment to make his own cider. The first attempt has been made with an apple concentrate kit but it is Mr S’s intention to eventually use our own apples and there is already talk of nettle and beetroot wine!

Work in progress….

Hubble, Bubble……..

40 pints fermenting nicely!

Cider is our tipple of choice so not only is it hobby it also fits in with our self sufficentish lifestyle and hopefully over the summer months and the BBQ season should save us some money (if we can persuade our friends to drink it!). Luckily there is a home brewing shop not for from where we live and so we are able to get all the equipment we need to brew our own locally and cheaply.

Things have progressed in the veggie garden this weekend too. A couple more raised beds have been built and filled with soil which was moved from the orchard to be. The potatoes appear to be growing well and needed earthing up and we have got quite a lot planted – the sweetcorn and french beans have gone in and carrots, salsify, beetroot, peas, courgettes and spring onions sown.

Plotting and Planning Part 2

As the weather forecast for this weekend was looking good the plan was to make a start with the vegetable garden.

After pondering about what we needed and where everything needed to go we finally came up with a rough plan. The fruit trees and strawberry bed are already in place so we decided to use these as a starting point. After jotting down a list of everything that we wanted to include this was the rough idea of what we were working towards.

Our main considerations for the vegetable garden are:

  • Enough room to grow a good variety of fruit and vegetables. We have opted for a four bed rotation system plus beds for perennial crops (strawberries, asparagus and artichokes). In addition extra beds have been included for salad and seasonal crops.
  • A long bed along the length of the plot against the fence will allow us to grow a variety of soft fruit. We will most likely have to cage/net this at some point .
  • Storage and potting sheds – at present we have an old inherited shed which is used for storage of garden tools etc. This however has been patched and repaired within an inch of its life and it would be better if replaced in this part of the garden.
  • Chickens – The jury is still out here! We would love to keep hens however we also like to travel and I already feel guilty about asking family to call and feed our cat while we are away. The room has been left for a hen-house and large run while we think about this.

So, with this plan in mind on Saturday morning our first job of the day was to take a trip to the local timber yard to pick up the materials for the raised beds. We have opted for raised beds as the soil in this area of the garden is heavy clay. By moving some of the loamy soil where the orchard is to be planted we will have plenty to fill the raised beds and hopefully give our plants a good start.

We opted for 6 x 2 inch untreated timber to make the beds out of. Our previous beds have been made out of 1 inch thick untreated timber and whilst they are still going strong 5 years later by using 2 inch thick timber we hope to get longer still out of these beds.

Whilst clearing the ground we were joined by a few of the locals!

By the end of the day we had made quite a bit of progress however there is still some way to go…..

The jobs still to do are:

Finish the raised beds

Erect a fence to the field side of garden

Level and lay the paths

Build the compost bins

Put down bases for potting shed and storage shed

Build the sheds

Plant and sow the vegetables!

My Top 10 Garden Plants For Children

I’ve always been keen to get the family as a whole involved in gardening, I have fond memories of gardening with my Grandma as a young child and I think that this is where my love of growing things developed. Following on from my post about garden activities for children here’s a list of my top ten plants for a child friendly garden.

1. Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) – This perennial with its fuzzy leaves is a favourite in any child’s garden. Children love to feel the soft silvery leaves.

2. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) – Butterfly bushes make wonderful small trees in a child’s garden and most children are fascinated by the winged creatures attracted to the plants.

3. Sunflowers  (Helianthus annuus) – These cheery, yellow annuals are fun and easy to grow, see who can grow the tallest!

4. Snapdragons  (Antirrhinum) – They can pick the flowers and make them talk. I remember doing this in my Grandma’s garden as a child.

5. Mint (Mentha) – Children enjoy the smell of different types of mint and rub the leaves between their fingers to release the scent.

6. Thyme (Thymus) – Use this plant between stepping stones. It is tough enough to handle the occasional mis-step.

7. Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) – The warm spicy aroma smells just like curry.

8. Carrots  – Children like the fluffy tops and enjoy the surprise of finding veggies growing underground – watch out and you might catch a glimpse of  Peter Rabbit!

9. Lavender (Lavandula) – The foliage of these plants is a lovely grey green, but the best part for kids is picking the scented flowering wands.

10. Grass – It smells great when freshly cut and cushions them when they fall over!

Plotting and Planning

The most pressing project to get done at the moment is to build the vegetable garden. We have a patch of land allocated which has been haphazardly used to grow our veggies over the past few years but this year we plan to grow much more and so a well laid out plot is needed.

Welcome to Steptoe’s Yard!

This is the piece of land that we have allocated it measures approx 7.5m x 30m and goes up to the far shed. Over the past few weeks we have cleared the logs and junk and between the frequent rain showers have erected a new fence between us and our neighbours. It now looks something like this,

A little better but still a long way to go

Looking back towards the house

A little better but such a long way to go! At least the fun part starts now – planning our plot and working out what and where everything needs to go.

Gardening Ideas For Children

Ok, so he may be a little heavy handed in the garden……

We have always tried to encourage our son to get out and help in the garden. Nowadays as he’s approaching his teens things are a little different but if the activities include either a bonfire if it’s cold or a BBQ if its warm he’s happy to join in.

Children love being outdoors so here are a few ideas to encourage them into the garden:

  • Go on a hunt for flowers, berries, leaves or insects
  • Plant seeds (inside or outside)
  • Create vegetable, fruit and leaf prints
  • Make seed mosaics
  • Simple supervised tasks such as deadheading or watering plants
  • Start a wormery
  • Watch a butterfly or tadpole develop
  • Place carrot tops in water & watch them sprout roots and leaves
  • Press and dry flowers
  • Arrange fresh flowers

If you have any other ideas I’d love to hear them! Hope the sun shines where you are this weekend and that you manage to get out and have a great time!

This Year’s Crops

Photo: Burgon & Ball

As part of our self sufficientish lifestyle our plan is to grow as much of our food as possible. When we first moved here we had never grown anything from scratch and whilst we had enjoyed gardening at our last house it was more of the see what plant catches our eye at the garden centre variety.

Over the past few years we have gradually increased what we grow. We started by growing potatoes and courgettes and buoyed on by our first years success we haven’t looked back. One thing that we did learn however was to only grow the stuff that we really like. In that first year we had a veritable glut of courgettes and being the only courgette eating person in our household meant that there were quite a few uneaten . My attempt at courgette muffins could not persuade anyone otherwise.

This year we are growing:

Potatoes – First Earlies ‘Home Guard’, Second Earlies ‘Maris Peer’, Maincrop ‘King Edward’ and ‘Kerr’s Pink’

Sweetcorn – ‘Applause’

Dwarf beans

Basil

Corriander

Tomatoes – ‘Olirose’, ‘ Orange Bourgoin’

Carrots – ‘Autumn King’

Beetroot – ‘Boltardy’

Pumpkin – ‘Jack o’ Lantern’

Rhubarb

Rocket

Mixed Salad Leaves

Peppers

Courgettes – ‘Black Beauty’

Spring Onion – ‘Ishikura’

Salsify

We also have permement plantings of:

Apples – ‘Scrumptious’, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ and two unknown varieties of dessert apple

Pears – ‘Conference’

Plums -‘Victoria’

Strawberries

Raspberries – ‘Autumn Bliss’

Redcurrants – ‘Jonkheer Van Tets’

Blackcurrants – Ben Nevis’

Jeruselem Artichokes

Globe Artichokes

Herbs – Chives, Thyme, Fennel, Bergamot, Sage

We look forward to showing you the results as they appear!