Posts tagged ‘garden’

January 18, 2014

Photo of my week #1

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Finding time to study this week has been a challenge…

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September 10, 2012

Burgon and Ball Trowel: a review.

Since spending more time on the allotment, I’ve come to realise that gardening tools are a bit like kitchen tools. There are a lot of fancy gadgets to spend your money on, but you’re more likely to rely on a few well-made and carefully chosen pieces of kit.  My beloved Felco secateurs definitely fall into this category. I never go to the allotment without them. I’ve been a bit short on other tools though, and so I’m really grateful for this beautiful new trowel courtesy of Notonthehighstreet.com.

Designed by Sophie Conran for Burgon and Ball, it’s one of a complete range of hand tools designed to fit women’s hands – they’re slightly smaller, with a slimmer handle.  It has a curving back, which just looks like a design, but actually it really helps stop you losing soil off the back of the trowel, so it’s practical too. It’s reassuringly weighty (but not overwhelmingly so), demonstrating its nice quality. I’m already really enjoying using it, and look forward to the  beechwood handle developing the warm patina of many years of use. All the tools in the range come individually packaged in a lovely blue box, and would make such a nice gift.

Photo from Notonthehighstreet.com

I’ve been really impressed with Notonthehighstreet.com‘s range of products. They have an extensive range of gifts for all the different people in your life, many of which are hand-made in this country by craftspeople; a great way to support small businesses. The standard is really high, I’ve loved everything I’ve bought from there in the past, which has mostly been jewellery as gifts. In fact the only problem with the site is the amount of choice, which means it takes ages for me to decide!

Now that the Autumn term has started at school, my thoughts are already turning to Christmas (there, I said it) and it’s the perfect place to look for unusual, often personalised, presents. I’ve already seen a few things that would be great for my kids so I’ll be back soon.

With many thanks to Notonthehighstreet.com for providing me with the gorgeous trowel to review.

August 15, 2012

Growing: gardening and career changes.

It’s not been our greatest year on the allotment. As I’ve written before, too many other things have been getting in the way, and coupled with the awful weather we’ve had, we’ve had our fair share of failures. Now that we have some more help with the work, in the shape of my mum, things are getting lots better and I have lots more renewed enthusiasm for it.

In fact, my enthusiasm for gardening as a whole has gone through the roof recently. There is something very satisfying in working with your hands and the process of making things grow, or at least attempting to, is such a soulful and satisfying one that I’m hoping to make it a source of income at some point in the future. With this in mind, I’m going to attempt to take the RHS level II courses to give me some formal qualifications.

Anyway, what I really wanted to share with you today is this photo:

I grew this!

This lily has survived the horrible weather, being driven over by toy trucks and repeated over-watering by the kids. It looks far too exotic to be growing in my little Northern back yard, but there it is in all its flamboyant beauty. Perfectly positioned in a pot so I can gaze at it through the window when I’m doing the washing up! It smells incredible too, a bold heady fragrance. I’ve been tempted to cut it and bring it indoors but I’ve realised that it is better where it is.

It’s made me think about a couple of things. Firstly, that plants want to grow. Really, really want to grow. Fling a few seeds in a pot and the chances are that something will come up. Even if you think you have no green fingers at all, I do urge you to try. Growing anything, even a few herbs, will really give you lots of pleasure, and you never know where it might lead you.

The other thing that I’ve been thinking about this flower is that it won’t be here for long. Soon it will die and I’ll no longer be able to look at it when I do the washing up. But that, perhaps, is a good thing. I would never want to not be filled with joy when I look at it. Never want to just take it for granted. I always want to be proud that it’s grown at all! So, I accept that its beauty will fade, and I won’t see it again until next year. The memory of it will remain, and that stimulus, the one I have had to develop gardening as part of my paid working life, will hopefully live for much longer.

March 14, 2012

Allotment update: Seeds or Seedlings?

It is rapidly approaching April and yet again, Spring has caught me off guard. This happens every year. I spend rather too long each Winter, happily reading through my seed catalogue and deciding what I want to grow, and then suddenly there is a mad rush and the proliferation of seed trays all over the house, on every spare shelf, available windowsill and all over the porch. If it’s not compost filled seed trays, then it is row after row of carefully saved loo roll inner tubes, each filled with the requisite pair of bean or sweet pea seeds.

There are several problems with this. Firstly, I look a bit like a crazy person, with my loo-roll-inner filled house. Secondly, the kids are very interested in what is growing and cannot resist a bit of poking about in the compost, which usually ends with half of it on the floor. Lastly, and probably the most important in terms of actual growing, seedlings that are grown in a rush tend to be a bit poor. They’re often leggy and weak, especially the climbers like sweet peas.

Still, it’s always been a matter of principle for me that I grow from seed, because that is what allotment gardening is all about…or is it? As more and more allotment holders are younger people, with jobs or small children – and in my case, both – perhaps I need to approach it differently. After some deliberation, I have decided that there is no shame in buying in seedlings where it makes more sense. So the plan is now to buy seeds where they are to be directly sown into the ground, and buy seedlings of the things that I usually have in my seed trays.

So here is my new list:

Seeds:

Dwarf French Beans. I grow ‘Rocquencourt’, ‘Purple Teepee’ and ‘Cobra’, which are direct drilled in thick rows in a raised bed. Each variety is a different colour (yellow, purple and green, respectively) which pleases me enormously.

Borlotti Beans: ‘Lingua de Fuoco’. I’ve decided not to grow runner beans this year because we just don’t eat them, but I love these beautiful red beans and a climber always adds some great structure to the plot.

Carrots: Early Nantes’ and the beetroot ‘Candy Stripe’ will be sown together in a raised bed. I LOVE this pale pink beetroot variety. Despite being a huge fan of the taste of beetroot, I loathe the bright pink staining it leaves everywhere and this variety removes that problem. Growing carrots in a raised bed will help remove the carrot fly, as will growing them mixed with other roots and anything from the allium family, so they’ll go in the raised bed next to my onions, which are already in the ground.

Peas: I’ll be growing both a maincrop pea (‘Hurst Green Shaft’) and the ‘Sugar Snap’ variety for eating whole. Hopefully I’ll get better results this year. I do struggle to grow a brilliant crop of peas but they are one of the vegetables that are so much better eaten straight from the plant, that I cannot give up trying!

Leeks: ‘St Victor’. I love the purple tinged leaves of this leek variety. Although they do have to be grown in a seedbed, they’re not urgent so I’ll manage it.

Potatoes: Slightly different, obviously, but the varieties I’ve chosen are ‘Charlotte’, which is a second early variety, and ‘Cara’ which is a late maincrop. This will give me a successional cropping, rather than a great big potato glut.

Dahlia: I’m going to get corms here, not seeds, and grow three different bold coloured varieties for cutting. ‘Happy Halloween’ is a small, bright orange decorative type, ‘Hillcrest Royal’ is a cerise pink cactus type and ‘Downham Royal’ is small ball type in a dark purple. Together, they will look amazing!

Seedlings:

Sweetcorn: ‘Sweet Nugget’ variety to grow in a square block.

Pumpkin: ‘Atlantic Giant’ – this is for Halloween, rather than for eating, so size is everything here! The pumpkin and sweetcorn will be grown together in a variation of the traditional ‘three sisters’ approach, where tall thin sweetcorn plants, climbing beans and sprawling-on-the -floor pumpkins are grown together. It makes the best available use of space, and it looks ace.

Sweet peas: A selection of varieties; ‘Lord Nelson’, ‘Prince Edward of York’ and the original sweet pea, ‘Matucana’. This is the Harlequin Sweet Pea mix from Sarah Raven.

Any other annual flowers I choose for the cutting garden will probably be bought as seedlings too. I am still to decide what else I want to add in.

In addition to this, I want to get some new strawberry runners for Eve’s little garden, if there is time this year.

Although the colours of the vegetables I grow don’t generally have any impact on their taste, the way the plot looks does matter to me. I like it to look pretty! Which is perhaps why I’ve always grown climbing varieties, different coloured beans and peas, flowers and pumpkins. I’ve chosen tried and trusted varieties this year, (all from Sarah Raven, purely because I like the company ) that I’ve had previous success with, as the year is too busy for experimentation, although it will be interesting to see if I get significantly better results having bought seedlings in, rather than growing my own.

Now I have a plan, it’s time to get to work…