Change and Memory in the New/Old Garden

The house we live in now was my grandparents’ house. It’s where my father grew up and where I spent lots of the school holidays. The smell of wisteria always takes me back to being a little girl running around in the garden. The garden itself is split into zones: there are two lawned sections, one to the rear and one to the east side, both with borders, one with a raised section and a gravel garden. The driveway has a deep border on one side that runs almost the full length. Then there is a small walled part where two of the apple trees stand. The summer house, I have discovered, does not act like a greenhouse, and instead is very cool and encourages plants to retain water – almost to the point of rotting. There are some established plants and shrubs, some which are obvious all the year round – the three wiegela, for example – and others which only appear as the seasons change, or as the time-short gardener starts weeding. It is rewarding and probably one of the best experiences I can afford at the moment, as I’m learning all the time about the garden, about plants, and how to organise and structure it.

In other parts of the garden, I’ve discovered many things, including two varieties of digitalis, one pink and one cream, campanula in white and periwinkle blue popping up all over, and several hot pink fuchsias have made themselves known. My day lilies are starting to open up, in a gorgeous orange colour, and while the deep magenta peonies have finished, the white ones were just opening up, until the drought finished them off. My hollyhocks are just starting to flower. The raised part below the apple trees is full of them, and they are all pale pastel colours, however I caught sight of something big and red down the side of the summer house, beyond the brambles, overgrown weigela and buddleia – a great big red hollyhock!

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with Big Red Hollyhock!

At the beginning, I felt almost disrespectful to be too keen at digging up the borders. After all, this was my grandparents’ garden, and I didn’t want to disturb the things that I felt were a testimony to them. Yet as time goes by and the weeds set in, a hard streak came through, and I’ve become a lot stricter. This is our house now, and I want to make the garden somewhere for us to enjoy. Although we are at odds with what we like in gardens – I like my perennials and shrubs, and if he had his way the borders would be bare soil over winter and full of bedding plants in summer. Over the year I have been able to see what we have an overabundance of. Clearly Nana liked her muscari, and while I don’t mind it, it goes rather scruffy after it’s flowered. Buddleias as well are not really my thing – they definitely have a 90s feel about them. I’ve dug lots of bulbs up, and who knows what they might be, but I will probably pot a lot of them up for mobile colour next spring. There was an abundance of daffodils so a big chunk will be them.

Other welcome surprises I would like to keep. This hosta, for example, will be dug up, divided and moved when the time is right. And the lupin and delphiniums, of course, which are great triffids and give a lovely burst of colour. I am going to try to keep the seeds from them. The Harry Wheatcroft rose has survived through neglect and is throwing out some gorgeous blooms.

Harry Wheatcroft rose

Digging up the borders is a big task, so I might not get it all done. Part of me wonders if I should just put black plastic down and let it kill everything off, but then I discover something else that makes me hesitate. And while I’m cutting down brambles and pulling up weeds, a bee will come buzzing along and alight on a flower, and that makes me stop dead in my tracks. I can’t get to my red hollyhock because of the brambles that the insects love. So maybe sometimes, stopping and delaying isn’t such a bad thing at all.

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May madness

It’s nearly the end of May already – time has just flown by. After the terrible weather in March and April, we’ve had a long spate of warmth and dryness – to the point where the ground is rock solid and all our silage grasses are crying out for a good rain shower. It’s been good for more controlled growing – namely my seedlings in pots and trays. I’ve had some problems and some poor doers, but I’ve had some real success stories (so far, anyway).

Tomatoes have done very well this year. I’ve always found tomatoes are very easy to germinate, as I’m sure most people do. This year I’ve grown three varieties: Gardener’s Delight, Moneymaker and Alicante. I started them all in the heated propagator, some in January and some in March, and have potted them all on. The plants from January’s sowings are monsters now. I cleaned out the greenhouse and have popped a couple of plants in there to grow. The rest I’m going to take to the Plant Stall on Saturday.

Cucumbers have been sown in two batches. I sowed six lots and four germinated. As they always sell well at the Stall, I have sown a successive lot though so far no germination, but it’s only been a couple of days. I used La Diva from Sarah Raven.

Squashes and Courgettes have seen me with a slight problem, in that they have germinated at the same time and there are no labels and somehow they’ve all gotten muddled up. Twitter might have to help me here!

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Squash or courgette? Who knows?

I also seem to have a bit of a floppy stem syndrome going on with some of them. I know they are meant to spread length-ways but I don’t remember ever having such floppy plants. Maybe they’re a little shy?! My squashes are from Sarah Raven and Courgette from Dobies (check).

In the raised beds, I sowed five lots of brassicas – cauliflower (All the Year Round), broccoli (Calabrese), romanescobrussel sprouts (Brigitte) and sprouting broccoli. Some of these were new seeds – sprouts and the cauliflower – but others were old seeds, particularly the romanesco which I found unopened in my seed box. They have all germinated, some better than others. I planted them in the bed into a compost mulch mixed with a generous helping of growmore, and as last year Mum had an issue with cabbage root fly, we are going to mesh them and hopefully monitor very closely.

I have put a lot of salad leaves in, as this time of year we eat a lot of salads, and I’m usually left a bit wanting by the selection in the supermarket. I’ve sown rocket, mixed leaves and red mustard, which have all germinated, and further sowings of All the Year Round and Edox lettucesmizuna and watercress. I sowed lambs lettuce and Cos lettuce from old seed packets and nothing came. I do like lambs lettuce so I might have to get a packet. I’m excited about the Edox variety which I got from the Dobies catalogue.

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Hello seedlings!

We’ve also sown two lots of spring onions as well as the classic super-fast growing radish.

In the next bed, I’ve tried to be crafty to fend off the evil carrot root fly, and have sown carrot (Autumn King) interspersed with onion (an onion-shallot mix from Dobies called zebrune), plus some parsnip (Hollow Crown – I couldn’t resist the name, though it is an old packet so we shall see if anything happens) and beetroot. I would quite like to pickle my own beetroot, and have a go at pickling carrot as well. When we’re in Germany they give us the nicest pickled carrot mix with our salad and it’s so yummy, but I can never find it in the Rewe supermarket so it must be a homemade mix.

We have lots of potatoes in bags. I use loads of potatoes and my idea is to try and grow ourselves what I buy the most of in the shops. I’ve had such bad experiences with potatoes from both the Lidl and Morrisons. I have thought about buying a great big bag from outside farms, but I might as well just grow my own.

Flowers-wise, there’s so much going on, I haven’t a clue where to begin, or even if things are going right. My lobelia, pansies and petunia all did really well then have come to a stop. Similarly I potted up my gaura and they’ve grown well then have flopped. I have one dahlia coming which is super exciting, and I potted up the other two only recently so fingers crossed they will come. I have verbascum coming, which I have just potted on, plus impatiens, nasturtium and of course loads of sweet peas. I’m wondering whether my little plants need a week in the greenhouse where it’s a little hotter to try and spur them on a bit.

I’ve sown, a bit late of course, some dichondra and begonia and they’re sat on a sunny windowsill in a propagator. My alstroemeria did nothing, very disappointing but I know they are very tricky to start from seed. In the garden of my old house I found a new plant that had obviously grown itself from a rhizome so that’s made up for the seed-related problems, plus when I was digging up my border I discovered a variegated one growing merrily away in amongst all the weeds. I had a poor do with the fuchsia – one very sickly-looking seedling out of two attempts, but I found a plant in the old house with lots of new shoots on it, so that’s been potted up and seems to be happy.

Soon it will be hanging basket time! I have four brackets to put up around the house, which means I need to get another two baskets. Hanging basket time is one of my favourite times in the garden, and I would like to make a few to sell, as I do think I make pretty good baskets.

How is your garden coming along in the May madness? Let me know in the comments!

My Apple Trees

For my birthday last year I got two apple trees (I think you might be able to see it here), a Katy (obviously!) and a Bramley. This year the Bramley has had an infestation of aphids – and they’re proper making my skin crawl. I’ve dosed the tree with soap and water and will see what it’s like tomorrow.

My Katy tree however appears to be unscathed! Possibly Katys aren’t very tasty. I don’t know. But while messing around with my camera I found some cool pictures showing a nice development of the tree:

IMG_6107 IMG_6104IMG_6448IMG_6449IMG_6450IMG_6621I’m gonna have some Katy apples! I’m very excited – even though I’m not entirely sure how tasty they will be. Katy apples are best known for making cider. Hmmm.

But we’ll see!

Until next time.

Katy x

A Rainy Day Recap – A Break from #summerschoolmadness

It’s been a while since I’ve done much blogging. I work in a company that runs summer schools so naturally we’re entering our busy time! Since I’m in recruitment, this is pretty much the story of my life – getting emails like this:

Activity Leader wants time off

I’ve been in my garden/greenhouse today a bit, though it has been raining on and off all day, which isn’t exactly ideal. I had managed to get quite wet walking Bilbo so I thought I might as well continue as I started.

Can you tell the photos I took on my iPhone and the ones on my DSLR?

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Top marks for anyone who can name everything in all these pictures! We had home grown turnips with tea – and I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I can actually grow cabbages! I’m sure loads of people will think that’s the saddest thing they’ve ever heard, but after last year’s brassica-related incident with horrid beasties, to see hearts forming on my greyhounds makes me rather excited! My potatoes look to be coming on well and I’ve about got everything set up in the position I want it to be.

Just need some sunshine now! I’m sure this time last year it was hot, sunny and dry.

 

Getting Ready for Spring… The New Raised Bed Diaries

Hello all!

After a weekend away, I’ve been back in my garden. 

It’s nearly March. March is the biggie month – the start of it all! ‘Spring’ is just around the corner, and things start heating up – hopefully figuratively and literally!

I’ve filled my greenhouse up with trays of sown seeds… as yet not much is happening. So far I’ve sown:

  • Various kinds of tomato (moneymaker, Ailsa Craig, sun gold, black cherry)
  • Leeks (I got free with my subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine)
  • Ailsa Craig onions, as recommended by DT Brown
  • Red Baron onions, which as the name suggests, are red onions!
  • All year round cauliflowers
  • And some cayenne peppers from seed, which Nana kindly gave to me, though with a warning that they were a little out of date, and should be sown with a pinch of salt.

So far, not much has happened, except…

I made a vlog! Check it out:

Who knew I had such a strong Yorkshire accent? Looking back at my video, I laughed for about half an hour over how I pronounced ‘greenhouse’. Anyway! This video seems to chiefly be about my cauliflowers. Here’s a pic of them!

I counted 29 little seedlings here - they're going strong!
I counted 29 little seedlings here – they’re going strong!

Whoa! Look at these bad boys! I counted, and I have 29 cauliflower seedlings! These, added to the two strong cauliflower plants that have overwintered on the bed itself, bring me up to 31 of the vegetable! Now, if you read my blog last year, you will recall that I had an issue with cauliflowers…

They all got eaten! They came on great, grew to a couple of inches high, and then I sowed by them some infected radish, or maybe there was already something nasty in the soil. Either way, a whole crop of radish, turnip and my cherished caulis were wiped out by nasty horrid maggotty things. Many tears were shed!

So this year I’m doing things proper. I’ve got my cabbage collars. Those pesky bugs aren’t getting anywhere near my brassicas! I’ve bought netting and all sorts. Last year was a trial run. This year it’s serious stuff!

What have you guys started at the moment? Have you got any seedlings coming up yet?

Katy

x

Windy Day at Windy Farm

Happy New Year! This is my first blog post in a long, long while, but I’ve had a lot on my plate at the moment – something which I will discuss in a later post. However I hope I should have more time to spend blogging, as I’ve been a very bad blogger in the past!

Perhaps God is an avid blog reader, and was quite cross that I hadn’t updated in a while… Disaster struck at Windy Farm!

After having a pretty rubbish week – rubbish in some ways, but also good in others – I was looking forward to a weekend to myself, mainly in my greenhouse. Was it last weekend when it was really windy? The wind had destroyed my plastic cloche, and so everything which had been overwintering in there had been moved into the greenhouse. I was planning on starting off some tomatoes in my propagator. However I got up on Saturday morning, firstly to a fallen-down tree in the garden:

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Check out that disaster! This is in the “back” garden which is the “front” garden as you approach the house. In the foreground you can see my two apple trees: how it missed the tree to the right I have no idea. The tree was in the hedge, and it had been part of a split-trunk: as the weaker trunk, it took the brunt of the wind a little too badly, and fell over.

But that wasn’t all…

I went to make my cup of tea, and looked up towards my beds and my greenhouse. From the kitchen window I can see the front door of my greenhouse (so the photo below is from the back, as if I was stood in the pond). I could see something shiny on the grass behind the greenhouse. A sinking feeling in my stomach, I went out (in my dressing gown, in the 80mph winds) to investigate.

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The wind had blown the entire back of my greenhouse out, and smashed the majority of the glass on the floor. To say I was gutted doesn’t even cut it!

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The greenhouse has a sliding door that doesn’t seem to close properly. We think the wind blew the door open and got into the house itself, and then blew the glass out. Luckily the glass didn’t get on any of the plants, and a couple of pieces were still in tact.

So there goes my weekend! So we need to get new glass (which is a pain, because when we opened the glass in the first place some of it was smashed), and also try to fashion some kind of latch to fasten the door.

Just another windy day at Windy Farm!

Did your gardens suffer any damage too in the wind?

An Early October Recap

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I’ve been a bad blogger of late! I don’t think I’ve made a post in about a month – but I do have a perfectly legitimate reason! This September I started my teacher training course, and have been commuting to Leeds through the week, so when I’ve not been absolutely exhausted from the drive, I’ve had a huge pile of assignments to plough through. And now that I’ve got a placement school, I’ll soon have teaching to focus on! So not only has my blog been neglected, but so has my garden!

As a quick break though from uni work (lesson planning and progression maps and lesson objectives and differentiation……) I hacked around in my beds for a while, and then took some photos. If you look at the top photo, you can see my two beds in the centre and to the left – but what’s that, to the right? That metal frame? Could it be… the base to a greenhouse?!

To recap! It was our annual village show a couple of weekends ago, and so I abandoned all uni work in order to dig up all my carrots, beetroots, onions and whatever else I could find in order to enter everything. As a first time grower my expectations were not high.

OK, that’s a lie. My expectations were very high, and thus were dashed on the ground like a spilled tray of something small and seedy. Which sounds quite dodgy. But basically, the standards in my village are so high, potentially because most of the other contenders are, ah, how can I say it? ‘More mature’, with many more years’ experience of growing stuff.

As it stands now, my beds are looking a bit bare and unloved. (Hmm, there’s a pun in there somewhere!)

Look how scruffy the edge looks! There’s another job to do…

Mum kindly planted out a load of leeks for me a few weeks ago, and my previously caterpillar-stripped kale have fluffed up again, so they look nice and bountiful again. I then sowed a load of cabbages, cauliflowers (second time’s a charm?), some more kale (because I looove it) and some fancy sprouting broccoli that doesn’t really look like broccoli. So the left hand bed may look a bit sad but it is full of potential!

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This is the “chard” bed – they seem to be HUGE in the left side and not so huge in the right side. Hmmm…

Different story in the right bed. I had let a few chards go to seed and they went out of control, so today I hacked them up and the last of the lettuces. That bed is now full of about three rows of rainbow/rhubarb chard, and a few rangy carrots. Looks like we’ll be living on chard and kale through the winter!

I do have plans for that bed, somewhere, in the back of my mind, when I have a minute. Those plans are in a similar sort of dreamworld that involves revamping my blogs and recolonizing the sewing room as my study once again. Is that a flying pig?!

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Oh no, wait! It’s a snoring Bilbo!

I also discovered some little surprises when I was weeding, and while I know some people will cry “weeds! weeds, dig them out!” I thought they were too lovely, and so have left them in.

Rillington Open Gardens: The Pond Post

Evening all. Last week I promised to make another post of Rillington Open Gardens, this time dedicated to the Koi ponds of the village. Here, as promised, are a selection of the best ponds Rillington has to offer! (I am amazed I’ve managed to actually keep a promise!)

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First of all, this is a picture of the fish in our pond. I think my father got a little carried away with the size of his fish pond, and thus it is rather green… however we have a lot of pretty koi in various shapes and sizes and colours!

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The pond is sort of a lightbulb shape, with the shallow narrow end in the above picture, and the fish in the larger much deeper end. Dad has started to populate the shallow end with plants, many of which are now home to the cases of dragonflies, hatched or in the process of emerging. In the background you can see father’s pond shed, which I think is in a different league to the bog standard ‘man shed’.

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This is the pond from the first garden we went to. The lady said they had one solitary goldfish, which was sneakily hiding out of shot in this picture.

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Here are some lovely koi. I find it quite hard to take photos of fish as they always look flat and not quite right in the picture. This was a long pond with a waterfall feature at one end and lots of floating lily pads, as you can see. It was quite nice, but rather impersonal and featureless. I quite like how our fish can loom out of the gloom, especially Skeletor. I’ll have to see if I can get a good photo of him.

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This is the waterfall feature of the pond above. It’s a shame that the wall will always be damp because of it, but it was pretty cool.

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I think this pond was ruined by the wire, presumably to keep Mr Heron off the pond. But I liked how it was blanketed by wilderness all around: it was more like a hidden surprise, which put me in mind of stumbling across a beck or brook out in the woods… I think I have something nymph-like repressed somewhere inside.

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Obviously, this isn’t a pond! This was a fancy water feature which the lady said they had had installed for about two years. The planters around it were home to their herb garden.

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This is more like my kind of pond: a bit of green, and a varied bit of green, with fish happily swimming around in the bottom.

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Now this was my favourite! This rather sneaky surprise was in a deceptive back garden. One half of the garden was fairly typical (if a plunge pool in a polytunnel can ever be called typical!) until you walked past one greenhouse and realised you could get to another garden. It turned out this couple owned most of next door’s garden as well, and in it they had this wonderful pond!

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I am stood on one bridge, looking down into one of the two ponds.

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I loved this pond! There is something romantic about a little bridge across a pond. I loved the fact that it was hidden. Definitely more than meets the eye!

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And a final pond, with a lot of happy swimming fish. My favourites are the white ones with red heads and black spots on their backs.

Currently Father is having a fair bit of work done to his pond – I’m not quite sure what, to be perfectly honest; a big green wheelie bin arrived one day which I was informed was not a wheelie bin at all but in fact a sieve, and not the kind you sieve flour into; then a digger arrived another day and a great trench was dug and pipes put in from the filter in the pond shed to the pond itself. I will get around to posting pictures of the pond’s evolution one day!

But that’s two blog posts in one day. Whoaaaah, hold up – let’s not get carried away now!

Rillington Open Gardens

This weekend it was our village Open Gardens event. All week Mum and Dad were busy preparing the garden, which is quite a task when you see how much lawn we have; but not only with mowing and pruning and planting, but also with trying to make a story for people to read. We’ve been living in this house for nearly two years now, and many people in the village knew it from the overgrown junglelike wilderness it was in 2011; others who walk their dogs past our garden every day didn’t know the full scale of the house and gardens we had, hidden behind the huge trees. Dad spent ages picking out photographs that he wanted to show people, then we had no printer paper, and then the printer wouldn’t work, and it was all very stressful.

For my vegetable plots, I thinned out some of my later sowings of turnips, lettuces and chard to try and get some attractive rows in. I also then spent a long time digging up a patch of earth to the rear of my beds where I wanted to plant out my broccolis (long overdue) and squashes. I had some well rotted manure left over from the beds, so I dug that in and covered with topsoil – it sounds really simple to write it like that, but it certainly wasn’t! I was exhausted from it, but at least now my squashes and broccolis are out.

My computer also is underlining ‘broccolis’ as if they’re spelled wrong… (it also didn’t like ‘spelt’) – what is the plural of broccoli?

I took my Nana round the Open Gardens on Sunday and we had a lovely day. The black clouds threatened rain but it held off. It was really good to see what other people have established in their vegetable gardens, what I have that is as good, or what I’ve got that is nothing even comparable to them. A lot of people had much bigger courgettes than me (mine are only just starting and are barely two inches long), and there were a lot of tomatoes coming. It was also really useful to see what sort of pest-control they have in place: netting, frames, scarers.

Here are a few photos from the weekend! I think I may have to make a Koi Pond Special post, as I took lots of pictures of ponds…

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A well established vegetable patch here! I think my courgettes are about comparable to these – mine maybe don’t have as many flowers open yet, but they are there!

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I love this part of this garden (the same as above, if I remember rightly); Nana and I both loved the use of logs to make a little snug.

 

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Serious greenhouse envy here! Another good part of this weekend was to identify competition in the Village Show…look at the tomatoes! Mine aren’t anywhere near as big in their mini greenhouse, and they have flowers at the moment, but no fruit.

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This is major cold frame envy. Look at those lettuces! Don’t they just look beautiful? Nana has a cold frame for me that needs a little bit of TLC, so seeing this one has inspired me to go get it – I just need time, and Dad’s truck!

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Another really well established garden. My beetroot is certainly of a comparable size, though I think I planted mine far too close together! Look at the size of things though! I think this family will have lots of homegrown treats! And they have a huge netted frame that goes over the entire plot, which will keep the rabbits and birds off – and the cats, too…

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Peas! I haven’t got any peas in at all, though I do have some mangetout (the infamous most have died, except the two on the end which are beasts) which we sampled a bit for tea the other night – it was lovely! Notice the sturdy frame. Apologies for the thumb in the corner of the shot – and you get a nice glimpse of Nana’s expensive skirt!

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I had to take a photo of the scarer! Isn’t he grand? The back panels were of a shiny sort of speckled metal, like a disco ball.

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It is my dream to have a proper greenhouse – half brick, half glass, just like this one. They advertise beautiful ones in my Kitchen Garden magazine. I had major greenhouse envy at the weekend: not many didn’t have a greenhouse at all. I don’t think any had a cloche from Morrisons and a tomato house from Wilko’s though!

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And finally, I couldn’t resist this! Apparently this was in the garden with the hot tub, which both Nana and I missed. We argued with Dad for ages about it. But I just love this idea! Handy way of using up all those old lorry or tractor tyres you have lying around…

I’ve also figured out how to centre-align my pictures, go me! Anyway, sorry for my significant absence: I’ve been working on the first chapter of my dissertation, and it is the busiest time of the year for us at work, before the centres open. Plus it’s now the busiest time in the garden! But I got up early to put up this post, so please enjoy, and keep an eye out for the Koi Pond Special!

Massive Progress! – The Raised Bed Diaries #9

Hello all! I’m sorry my posts have been rather sporadic of late, I’m currently working on presenting a paper for the postgraduate conference at uni and it’s taking up most of my time.

Most of these Diary posts are quite back-dated anyway, but I’m trying my hardest to bring them all up to date.

Because I’ve not had as much time to sit by the cloche and stare at my plants, every time I go to look at them they seem to have erupted. My broccolis, courgettes and even my runner beans are turning into great beasts!

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These are my broccoli plants, and they’re starting to look like small trees! I need to plant them out, but at the rate they are growing, there would be no room for anything else in my beds. I think I may clear away a bit of bare soil and plant them out beside my beds, so that they have the space to grow. Need to keep the rabbits off them though.

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Look at these two bad boys! On the left is one of the smaller courgettes. This one is probably my favourite because its two leaves are almost perfectly symmetrical. On some of the others, the proper courgette leaf is huge.

On the right is one of my beans! I’ve had a slight mishap with the beans, and one of them hasn’t germinated. A dud! But as you can see this one is majestic. They are all of a similar size, and desperately need repotting into something else. For the moment, they are OK, but they will soon need to be hardened off, and I need to decide what to do with them.