So here we go...There are many changes to be made to this page. Let's call it work in progress shall we? But at least we're up and running. So excited!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

And Then There Were Five...

It looks like I'm going for a personal record, to see exactly how many raised beds I can fit onto our land! As of the weekend, that figure has risen to FIVE of the little beauties! It would have been six, but I got a little distracted with the paddling pool...especially when Nicole thought it would be far more fun to shoot me with her water pistol, instead of watering the plants with it!
Anyway, no sooner had my fifth addition to the patch been erected and filled with compost, I decided to re-house and thin out my French bean seedlings, which had almost outgrown my mini greenhouse. They used to live alongside the carrots, but I swapped them with  some spring onions, (perfect for keeping carrot fly away apparently).

As Nicole is ultimately my main reason for growing vegetables in the first place, I was advised to plant some beetroot seeds in my new bed. The reason for this being that they grow pretty quickly, so impatient little monkeys, (and parents) get to see results faster.  Sure enough, only four days after sowing, they are already beginning to sprout! Anyone within a close proximity of me must think I'm a little bit mad when they see me checking on progress. I actually start talking out loud and shouting praise at the little shoots just because they're growing! I didn't even realise I did this until I witnessed Nicole doing the same to her tomato plants and sunflowers!

On the subject of things growing, if you really want instant gratification for yourself or your wee nippers, then I URGE you to start growing rocket salad. I honestly can't eat it fast reminds me of the magic porridge pot. This may sound ridiculous, but I was terrified of cutting it the very first time. I was so proud of it's beautiful leaves that I was worried that it might not grow back.  No need! I cut it back one day, and the next, it's like the magical rocket fairy had payed a visit during the night and replenished the stock. Amazing!

Little tip for you if you're not quite sure what to do with your surplus rocket leaves. Why not try making this yummy pesto recipe that I found. Nicole LOVES it with her pasta, especially as she knows that she's helped to grow it.
(Thanks for this suggestion too, Esther)

Rocket Pesto
125g rocket, stems trimmed and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
80ml extra virgin olive oil
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g Parmesan, grated
maldon salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the rocket, walnuts, Parmesan, and a little salt and pepper, in a food processor. Blend the mixture until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the side occasionally. While the motor is running gradually pour in the olive oil until well distributed.
Storage: Place the Pesto in a sterilised jar and pour a little extra virgin olive oil over the top and seal well with a lid. Refrigerate until ready to use.
The Pesto will keep for up to a month in well sealed jar in the refrigerator.

I should take this opportunity to give my previous contributor, Matt, a little round of applause. He got in touch again to show me how proud he is of his strawberries...

Great stuff mister! x

Monday, 28 June 2010


It's official...I am MELTING!
I hate to say it, but I'm one of those typical people who moans regardless of what the weather is like. Too hot, too cold, to wet, too dry.  Only now, I'm not just thinking of myself, oh no no no.  I'm thinking of my little green friends.  As you know all too well by now, I am learning from scratch about how to care for my plants.  Luckily I have Wendy over the fence.  At the weekend she had a little peek at my beds and told me I should really give them more water.  She advised me to water them first thing in the morning and last thing at night, certainly while the weather continues to be so warm, (I should imagine it'll only last a few more days, knowing the good old British summer time!) I'm just hoping it's not too late for my mange tout.  They were starting to look a little pathetic to say the least. They've bucked up a little bit now, so I'm hoping that a bit of TLC will sort them out nicely.

Ooh! Something to share with you.  Our rocket salad is properly on a roll.  It simply will not stop growing. Not just that, but I seriously can't believe the difference between home grown salad leaves and shop bought. It's so crisp and fresh, as opposed to soggy, mulchy leaves out of a plastic bag! I've told the other half that we're going to have rocket with everything from now on. Not sure if it goes with fish n chips...but we'll soon see!
Check out my little salad. I've never been so proud!

Just before the weekend, I received an email from an old friend of mine called Kelly. She has a little girl called Kara and wanted to share her story with everyone. She too is new to growing her own but thought she'd give it a go. The thing is, if you don't even attempt these things, you'll never know if you can be successful.  It really isn't the end of the world if it doesn't work out. You just learn from your mistakes and try again.
Anyway, here is...

We initially started planting in April, bought a few seed packets from the garden centre-just a couple of tomato plants, sweetcorn (which we were very surprised to see was just a dried up piece of sweetcorn!) , a tiny pepper plant and an even smaller chili pepper plant- oh and the token Sunflower seeds (never successfully grown one bigger that about 3 inches!)

Kara got really into it too- she usually just goes on the trampoline when I am gardening, but getting her involved was great.

Since seeing your blog I got super keen. We transferred the successful tomato plants to bigger pots, the chili and the pepper plant actually needed support from a bamboo-yey! The cucumber plant is looking healthy- though I have never ever seen a cucumber grow?? Cant imagine growing an actual cucumber?!

I went to the garden centre and perhaps cheated a bit because I bought some 'clearance' lettuce, green bean and cabbage plants....hoping to nurture them and bring them back to life!
Kara has done a trial of her own......several cherry stones in the compost...she only planted them yesterday but it would be superb if it worked!!
In all, Cucumber, Pepper, Chili Pepper, Tomato, Cabbage, Lettuce, Green Beans and a stab at a cherry tree
Am going to try potatoes next x

Thank you so much Kelly x

Thursday, 24 June 2010

On Your Marks, Get Set, Grow...

The folks have come to stay, and to be honest, I think the reason they made the journey in the first place, (besides coming to see their gorgeous granddaughter) is because they needed to see proof of my newly acclaimed, green fingers.  See, they know me far too well, and even though they've been following the blog avidly, they still couldn't believe that I was even remotely capable of growing anything. It seems they needed proof...and they needed to see it with their own eyes!

Nicole took great pleasure in leading them by the hand, to show them what she'd been helping mummy with. In all fairness, anything she seems to touch, flourishes.  It's like she has the gift!
Anyway, they admitted that they were more than a little impressed with the whole thing. Even more so when I picked some fresh rocket salad to have with our barbecue. It was quite a moment for me.  It's the first thing I've grown that I've actually eaten...and it tasted amazing!

With all this home grown veggie stuff in mind, Nana and Poppops, (as they are known to Nicole) produced yet another prezzie for her. Her very own sunflower racing kit!  With her being something of a professional at this gardening business, she was more than happy to take the challenge.
Three pots. One for her, one for Nana and one for Pops. Three sunflower seeds, a tape measure and a wall chart. What more could you want? She obviously chose the biggest seed, hoping that it would become the biggest sunflower!  Now, all that's left to do is keep watering and measuring. She promised that she'll water all three, but I get the feeling that once my parents' leave, she'll happily neglect the other two so that hers grows bigger!

By the way, I'm thinking of taking out shares in our local garden centre. Either that or they should maybe start charging me rent. After all, I do seem to spend so much time there. Talking of which, another trip is on the cards this afternoon. I'm hoping to get my dad to construct some kind of protective frame for me.  Surely that's what dad's are for?
Oh, by the way, quick update on the scarecrow front.  He is now officially called Kyle! Nicole's choice. Nothing to do with mummy wanting to name him after Jeremy! x

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Matt's Story...

Myself and little bear had a very productive day in the garden yesterday, and I fully intended to tell you all about it today. Got some fab pictures of madam watering her plants, and for the first time I fully appreciated what a little poser she is!

Anyway, I shall have to share this with you tomorrow, because last night I received a beautifully written, and thoroughly inspirational story from one of my gorgeous followers.  His name is Matt Hardy, a train driver/photographer/daddy/novice veggie grower from Yorkshire.  I've never met Matt before but felt compelled to share his story and pictures with you...I happily encourage any of you to do the same. Any tiny piece of help and advice might just be of use to someone else.

So, ladies and gentlemen. I give you.....

Matt's Story...

Hi Jayne,Right, firstly, on a sliding scale of gardening expertise I'm the idiot stood at the back holding the trowel by the wrong end wondering where the batteries go.
However my 8 year old daughter Grace had been learning about fruit and vegetables at school and wanted to have a go at growing her own. So, with some left over decking from a previous project, some wooden stakes and a pack of screws I put together a 6 foot by 4 foot raised bed and hammered it down on to the lawn Filled it with 10 bags of cheap compost and mixed in half a bag of well rotted manure. Total cost £25, and as a Yorkshire man that hurt but was worth the effort.
Now the fun bit. Myself, daughter Grace and moody 13 year old sloth son Callum set off to the garden centre, and probably spent about 20 quid on seedlings of every type rushed home plonked them in the bed and sat back feeling rather proud of ourselves. Sadly, three frosty nights and an industrious snail saw the lot off and left us once again with an empty bed! First lesson learnt, don't plant out until after the last frost and protect against snails and slugs. We did the latter by sticking copper coins and old copper piping around the bed (this really works) and arming the little one with a bucket with which she gathered up any stragglers and promptly slung them in the canal.

Next we decided to go for the option of buying a few bags of seeds from the local Aldi, carrots, beetroot, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, etc and planted them all in neat rows, watered and kept out fingers crossed.

Henry the Hedgehog
At this point during a late night barbecue I hear a strange rustling from the bushes, take a look and find Henry the Hedgehog, snuffling out snails. Bribing him with the occasional plate of cat food we have now managed to convince him to stay. This is perhaps the best slug control system I have ever come across and recommend bribing a hedgehog to live in your garden to anyone.
The Oracle
Or as she is more commonly known, Erica. She lives in the terrace and knows everything there is to know about things that grow out of and under the ground.
Perhaps being a little over enthusiastic with the size of the bed I decided to offer a third of the plot to Erica. This is probably my best move yet. Not only has the whole street now taken an interest in growing their own I now have a lady who helps out with the weeding and tending to the crops... Brilliant.

Six weeks on and we are really starting to groan under the weight of rocket salad, lettuce, radishes, and have had so many brassicas (I didn't even know that word until recently) that we have had to thin them out and are using the surplus as bedding plants around the rest of the garden! And you know what? I couldn't be happier... I'm already making room for my pumpkins to go in and wondering where the next bed is going to go. My son has taken control of the hose pipe like its a games console and my daughter is always out there doing a bit of weeding. Bring on the Veg!
Finally if anyone is in any doubt about how easy this is, Grace came home from school with a sunflower seedling and planted it at the back of the garden, similarly my pet parrot called Tetley had managed to launch one of his sunflower seeds out of the aviary and it started to grow where it landed. We now have a sunflower growing competition going on between an 8 year old girl and a 5 year old African Gray parrot. And with no help from any grown ups.


Monday, 21 June 2010

Smashing Pumpkins...

Breaking news...Father's day interrupts important gardening/blog work! Although I still managed to get plenty done in the garden this weekend, I didn't have the full on veg-fest that I'd counted on.  Myself and Nicole thought it was only fair to drag the hubby's carcass to the pub for a father's day lunch treat, (Nicole thoroughly approved because the pub in question does have a fab little play area AND a bouncy castle...everyone's a winner!)

I did however manage to squeeze in a little trip to a new garden centre en route.  The hubby played a vital role in this as I needed a load of bags of compost and top soil. Way easier to get him to lug them into the car than me doing it! Surely it's what EVERY dad wants to be doing on Father's Day?!

So, back to the homestead, and my next job was to erect a couple more raised beds for the plot.  Feeling a massive need to share some information with you now, people.  The first two raised beds I put down on the patch were from Argos, as I mentioned before.  They were easy enough to put together but a wee bit time consuming.  The latest addition to the plot, quite simply, could not be easier to put together. They are just short of 1 meter squared and took approximately 45 seconds to assemble! They cost me £19.99 from Homebase, are made of wicker and have an internal liner which makes them suitable for use pretty much anywhere. I think they look pretty cute sat next to my original beds.
You may notice, in the background is another new addition to the situation.  He doesn't have a name yet, but when we were looking around the garden centre, (trying to find a new wheelbarrow) Nicole spotted this little beauty. I found it hard to say no, and pretty soon he was winging his way through the checkout and into the back of the car.  I don't have a clue if he will do his job properly, but to be honest, I'm willing to give ANYTHING a try to keep those pesky birds off my crops!
So, with two new beds full of compost, my next job was to transfer some more seedlings across.

As I mentioned previously, last week my friend Nick kindly gave me a load of seedlings which she'd cultivated in her greenhouse.  Amongst these were pumpkins and courgettes. I set about planting my pumpkins, making sure they had plenty of space.  However, when I came to look in the box of seedlings, I could only find two courgettes.  I'm sure there were four to start with! I'm now in a bit of a pickle.  I think I've got my pumpkins and courgettes all mixed up! Ooh, the drama! They look so similar, and to be honest I haven't got a clue which are which! Unless any of you tell me that growing them together is going to cause problems on a gigantic scale, I think I'll just leave them as they are, and hopefully find out which are which when they start growing. Or should I say, IF they start growing! Fingers crossed x

Friday, 18 June 2010

Big Pots, Little Pots, Cardboard Box...

As you all know, I'm very new to this whole veggie gardening malarkey. I think the main thing that held me back all these years, is the fact that I found the whole process so daunting. I mean, where on earth do you start? I didn't even own a trowel! Also, before we moved out to our current home I always assumed that we just didn't have the space either.  Surely, if you're going to grow anything you need acres of land, room for a pony and a sit on mower? WRONG!

Turns out you can grow a ton of different stuff even if you only have room for a plant pot.  This is exactly where I decided to start.  

I mentioned before that Nicole was given a little tomato plant.  Well, we now have another five tommy plants, alongside blueberries, gooseberries, chili plants and peppers...all growing beautifully in simple little plant pots. I would recommend that anybody interested in growing their own, start this way. They're easy to care for and you can get as creative as you like with them.

There are some gorgeous plant pots out there too, and I'm a bit of a sucker for all things girly and pretty. Nicole helped me pick these ones out from Homebase. The small ones only cost £1.99 and are perfect for growing chili plants. The way I see it, if they are going to live in my house, I want them to look nice.

Planting in pots is also the perfect way to get kids involved. Give them their own plant pot, trowel and a whole heap of soil, and they are as happy as a pig in the proverbial. The chili plants are officially Nicole's, (I know this because she told me!) She filled them with compost, dug out a little hole and planted the seedling.  Seriously people, she's two! If she can do it then surely anybody can!

On the subject of my little bear, you wouldn't believe how much she's taken to mummy's new-found hobby. Granted, she has a tendency to get bored after ten minutes and wonders off to watch Mickey Mouse for a while, but she soon runs back, water pistol in hand, ready to help me water everything. She asked me the other day if we can dig a whole and plant her Peppa Pig so that we can have a pig tree in our garden! Nice idea little bear...maybe that can be our next project!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

It's A Cover Up...

I love bunnies, (I really do) and when we first moved out to the countryside I embraced my garden full of wild floppy-eared friends. What's not to love, right? Every time they came to nibble on the grass, I'd call Nicole and she'd stand there, looking out of the window, jumping about, doing her best rabbit impression...very cute.  My opinion of them changed however the SECOND I started growing my own.

Before I even contemplated planting my first seed I set about discovering different ways to protect my little green babies. I was feeling very uninspired and a little downbeat at the thought of growing so many yummy veggies, only to have the whole crop devoured by my buck tooth visitors. Even if the bunnies stayed clear I still have the birds to consider...and in our garden we have a whole little bird world going on...something I certainly wouldn't want to change!

So yesterday, me and little bear put on our welly boots and went to visit my gorgeous friend Nick. 
Nick's been growing her own produce for years now and has given me so much advice along the way, (along with a whole heap of seedlings and plants).  She took me down to her allotment to give me a few ideas on how to cover and protect all the goodies.

Now, as a novice I didn't have a clue where to start with covering. I just assumed that all the old school pros used some hi-tech secret gadgets that simply weren't available to a newbie like me.  I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of the methods, and how effective they seemed to be.

Basically, the running theme throughout the allotment was this:

1, Take some wood of varying length
2, Wrap green netting around said wood
3, Place over veggies
4, Stick your tongue out at the bunnies and birds in a very childish manner

Simples! Suddenly this whole thing didn't seem quite so scary.  The rules are...there are no rules. As a lot of people have told me, it's all about trial and error. You make a mistake, you learn by it, and you don't do it again.  Once you get that into your head, you are pretty much rocking and rolling.

So, I made a ton of progress yesterday. Once I got home I decided to tackle more of the weeds. Nicole LOVED helping me do this. Some may call it child labour, but the way I see it is she's WAY closer to the ground than me so it's a lot easier for her to do!  Talking of which, I have in the past had two horrible back operations, so a kneeling mat and good posture is vital. Sorry to sound like your mother but NOTHING is worth another week in hospital!

I now have two raised beds up and running and bought two more to put down over the weekend.  It's going to get to the point where the hubby will have to physically restrain me from covering the whole garden with raised beds. I'm like a woman possessed, but once you get going it becomes so addictive.

Getting there slowly but surely!

Today is all about growing in pots. I'm talking tomato and chili plants, blueberries and gooseberries...Can't wait to show you the pics tomorrow!

Can I also take this opportunity to thank all of you for your words of support and encouragement.  The enthusiasm from you lot is inspiring and your help and advice are just incredible. Have a scroll through some of the many comments. You might find the answer to all your veggie related problems x x x

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Up and running

When we moved into our house a year ago, I was beyond excited that there was already a greenhouse on the land.  My head got a little carried away and already I had visions of pineapples and bananas (told you I was new to this!) Caribbean fruit emporium wasn't to be when on closer inspection the greenhouse was literally falling to pieces. The people in the house before us had, for some reason, built it on top of flagstones! The whole thing was collapsing into the ground...but not to worry...I found the perfect solution. I went down to my local garden centre and found this...

It's like a mini greenhouse. The beauty of this little cold frame is it really doesn't matter how much space you've got. It's ideal for little plots if you don't have room for the real thing. It was less than £30 too so we're all laughing*

*For the record...NOBODY was laughing when I was trying to erect the thing! All I can say is it's a good job little bear (Nicole) wasn't around. The air was turning a deep shade of blue with the profanities that came from my mouth! The instructions were less than helpful. But hey, it looks good!

When attempting to become a veggie growing extraordinaire, it really does help if you've got amazing neighbours and friends who've been doing it a lot longer than you. Don't feel scared to ask advice. If I hadn't I wouldn't even dare to attempt any of this. Once you've asked for help, I guarantee you will be inundated with freebies passed over the fence.  Our lovely neighbours David and Wendy gave Nicole her first ever tomato plant. She knows that it's her responsibility to look after it, and to make it more fun for her, she chooses to feed it with a water pistol. She must be doing something right because it's flourishing and covered in beautiful flowers.

Talking of friends, I'm going round to see my friend Nick today, (her hubby works with mine). She's got some pumpkin, courgette, tomato and cabbage seedlings for me. I shall stick them in the mini greenhouse and see what happens...fingers crossed! I'm determined to carve my own home grown pumpkin this Halloween!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Off the starters block!

Hellooooo! Please excuse the stupid excitement but this is my first post and I've been literally chomping at the bit to get this underway.

So, a few months ago I decided to pull my finger out and go all Charlie Dimmock. Although I did have the foresight to actually wear a bra!

I simply couldn't wait to start growing and eating all my own lovely veggies, and with the ground frost still slightly lingering, turns out I was bang on time to start producing my own.

First things first...tackling those blummin weeds! Whilst poppies may look quite pretty, trust me, they are a pain in the rear!

With most of the weeds out of the way I lay down a couple of rolls of weed proof black matting. You can buy this in most garden centres and it's a God send. Guarantees no weeds will show their ugly faces for the next 5 years...result! There's also the added bonus that you don't need to use nasty chemicals either. Double thumbs up.

Next a trip to, (wait for it) Argos!!! Yup I just bought my first ever raised bed from there and I have to say, it's perfect. Only 1 metre squared so it hardly takes up any room. Will start with two and see how we get on.

                                                      From this...

To this...