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!

Monday, 28 February 2011

Chooeey, I'm Back! x

Like a little baby hedgehog I've finally come out of hibernation from the winter. Unlike a hedgehog though, I've awoken to a very unsightly veggie plot that is in desperate need of some TLC!
As I explained at the very start of this ere blog, I am very much an amateur at this whole 'grow your own' business and can't even begin to tell you how much pleasure I got out of it over thew summer months. However, as soon as the cold, damp, and miserable wet weather started to creep back in, I felt my self quickly taking several quick steps back inside the house to my lovely warm nest, far away from all things squelchy! I'll be honest, I didn't really have a clue what to do over winter. Our neighbours had suggested certain winter crops which would be ideal, but unfortunately I'd left it all a little too late to do anything about. Never fear though. I have taken this knowledge and will not be making the same mistakes again, (hopefully!).

So anyway, I finally plucked up the courage to take a peek at my plot to asses what the heck's going on over there. Apart from a few weeds here and there it's not actually looking too bad.  One things for sure though, my mini greenhouse has taken a proper battering in the nasty weather we've been having...nothing that can't be fixed though I'm sure. Oh, and I may be needing to do a swift operation on Kyle, (the scarecrow...named by Nicole, not me) as he is looking slightly worse for wear and a little bedraggled to say the least!

Once I finally get round to tarting the whole area up a little I'll be back on form to let you know about my progress.

Oh, and just so you know, I hold my husband ENTIRELY responsible for the neglect of the patch. Because he went to do Dancing on Ice, I ended up spending all my free time down at the ice rink. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! x

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Welcome To The Jungle...

Well, after a bit of a blogging break, I've finally got myself into gear and found a couple of minutes to sit at the laptop! Thank you all so much for taking the time to click on the follow button by the way (left hand column or above).

We managed to get away on holiday for a week, which I have to admit was a bit daunting, considering all the hard work I'd put into my beloved patch over the last few months. Honestly, it's worse than having a dog! At least you can put your furry friend into kennels while you're away, but you can hardly just expect someone else to put as much care and attention into your veggie plot as you do. Well, luckily for us we are blessed with incredible neighbours who are just as crazy about growing their own as I am, and offered to look after everything while we were away...phew! I had visions of returning to a rotten pile of smolch, but Wendy came to the rescue! Turns out I needn't have worried. You really don't appreciate how much things grow when you see it every day, yet after just eight nights abroad we returned to what can only be described as a veritable jungle, dripping with every kind of veg you can imagine...even my cucumbers have grown!

The pumpkins have run riot and seem to be on a mission to take over the entire garden like some kind of yellow flowered monster, and the courgettes.....seriously, don't even talk to me about stupid courgettes. I'm convinced that they have a mind of their own and are growing so fast on purpose just to see me have courgette meltdown!
Little tip for you. Try growing both green and yellow courgettes. Nicole especially LOVES the yellow ones and they make your dinner plate look much more colourful and varied.
Ooh, on that subject, I have another recipe for you. It's a great way to get rid of a few at a time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

Courgette Soup!

Between 8-10 courgettes
1-2 large onions
Chicken stock
(I tend to play it by ear which is why measurements are non too specific)

SO EASY! Chop courgettes and onions and sweat in a large pan until nice and soft. Do not let them go brown.
Once soft, add about 1 to 2 pints of chicken stock to the pan and simmer for about thirty minutes.
Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a blender,

Now, I know that on paper this doesn't sound the most appealing recipe, but please give it a try. You'll be shocked at the consistency. It's similar to that of leek and potato soup and is so creamy. Absolutely delicious!

What else to tell you?  The chillies have finally turned red and are ready to be picked. A friend told me that it's absolutely fine to freeze chillies so hopefully none will go to waste.

The French beans are also doing exceptionally well, as are the tomatoes and blueberries.

More impressive than all of this though are the peppers.  I did a bit of an experiment with my pepper plant seedlings a good few months back.  I put some on the window ledge in the house and the rest I put inside my mini greenhouse. The ones on the ledge were sadly laid to rest some weeks back, whereas the ones in the mini greenhouse are almost ready to eat.

It really took me by surprise when I saw them hanging there. They somehow seem to hide under all the leaves and are easily missed when watering. It's one of the best (and most smug) feelings you can get when you succeed in nurturing a tiny little seed into a fully fledged veg. Only problem is, I can never bring myself to pick them. I'm convinced that once they're gone, nobody will ever believe I even managed to grow them in the first place!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Get In Ma Belly!...

Before I start, thank you so much for taking the time out to read this. I really do appreciate it. Hope it's even the tiniest bit useful to you. If you like it, please feel free to click the 'Follow' button, either top left of your screen or in the left hand column. THANK YOU! x

I don't mean to brag, peeps, but I really do have some cracking pumpkins! Well, if truth be told, I'm having a ton of success with nearly all my crop so far. Since my last post the veggie patch just seems to have gone crazy. One day I'm out watering a few little seedlings, and the next, I'm practically having to wrestle my way through the garden amongst foliage and hanging fruits! Well, not quite, but I think you get the general idea. 

As this is my first year of growing my own I don't know any different.  However, I've been informed by many of my lovely followers on here, (and on Twitter) that this year happens to be quite exceptional. The crops are impressive and plentiful...we will not go hungry in our house, that's for sure!

Most impressive of all has to be the courgettes.  I mean, seriously, they are MAHOOSIVE! We're eating at least one a day, and we're still not sick of them.
I've been making a scrummy spicy ratatouille with mine.  Nicole absolutely loves it too. You should see her little face when we go out to pick our dinner from the garden! I've been using our own tomato's, courgettes, French beans, garlic and chili's (which I omitted from Nicole's portion) for the dish and, if I'd let her, she'd lick the plate clean.

My Very Own Ratatouille

2 big hand fulls of tomato's
1 onion
handful of French beans
1-2 fresh chili's
1 clove of garlic

Brown the courgette in a pan. In a separate pan fry onion, crushed garlic, chopped beans and chopped chili's. Chop tomato's and add to the pan. Add the browned courgettes and simmer for 20 mins.
As an optional extra, add a dash of double cream at the end...if you're feeling naughty!

The beetroot's doing really well, (although I'm not 100% sure how to prepare it....I'm thinking of boiling it)as are the pumpkins. By Halloween they are going to be huge!
We can't eat the rocket fast enough, and I hate to say it, but some ended up on the compost heap because it had grown so big that it had started to flower.

Blueberries, raspberries and spring onions are all doing me proud. I was just about to give up on the mange tout when I saw THIS bad boy beaming away at me! Neverappier!

I have to admit, I've been so scared about picking them, thinking that they may never grow back. How wrong could I be? I've since done my homework and discovered that the more frequently that you pick them, the more fruits they will provide...and with that, I'm off out amongst the wild to pick tonight's dinner. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Fruits Of My Labour...

Firstly, can I just start off today's blog by saying a huge great THANK YOU to all you gorgeous people for taking the time out to read it. I'm absolutely loving the experience and welcome all your hints and tips. I would massively appreciate it if you would take a couple of seconds to register with me by clicking either of the FOLLOW buttons, (top left of the page or in the left hand column). Thanks again. You are all officially amazing!

Right then, where was I? The sixth raised bed is finally down! The compost has been worked through and I'm ready to plant my cabbages and cucumbers. I started to think I was going a little over the top with my seedling purchases, but the way I see it, I'm going to have a go at growing as much as I can handle, and if they aren't successful then I'll hopefully learn from my mistakes next year.

Anyway, EXCITING NEWS! I'm finally starting to see proper results of all my hard work.  Myself and Nicole went out armed with watering can and water pistol the other morning, and as we were going through our usual routine, (which usually consists of Nicole firing the watering pistol at me and sniffing the plants!) she suddenly started to shout, "Mummy, Mummy, look at the tomato's" Sure enough, Nicole's tomato plant had suddenly decided to sprout a whole bunch of little green tommy's! (still not a single one on my tomato plants, but hers are practically dripping in them).  I have to say, it's possibly the most excited I've been since giving birth!

Just when I thought my day couldn't get any better, I went to see to my chili plants and noticed two absolutely beautiful green chili's hanging from one of them! I swear they weren't there yesterday. I'll be honest, I'm not sure how long I have to leave them before I can pick them. Exactly how big should I let them get? And more importantly, will they grow back ever again?! As I'm fairly new to all this, I have to admit that sometimes I forget that you can actually EAT all the stuff that's growing! I often need reminding that that's the point of the whole exercise!

Nothing makes me happier than seeing Nicole tucking in to her veggies. Our neighbours are growing peas and Nicole sits around eating them like sweets. Seriously, if you have kids and can't get them to eat their greens, get them to help you grow them. They suddenly become far more interesting. There's something about picking a pea pod off a plant, popping it open and eating them fresh that's far more fun than any bag of crisps!
Finally, our good friend Jamesy who grows tons of his own vegetables, gave me a great little tip for keeping bugs and slugs away. Dilute a tiny amount of washing up liquid with water and spray sparingly all over your plants. Not only is it a relatively inexpensive way of treating them, but it's organic too. Everyone's a winner! x

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