Wisteria Hysteria

The smell of wisteria always reminds me of childhood summers spent at my grandparents’ house, where a huge climber all but covered one side of the house. Now that we live in the house, every time I walk past the plant in full bloom, I always think of my Nana and Grandad, sadly no longer with us.

It is a tremendous plant and possibly in need of a little pruning, though unless something drastic happens to it, I will never have it cut down. It is a dominant feature of the house, providing beautiful fragrance and dramatic colour, and is something so intrinsically entwined with the nature of this house.

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I am going to try to take cuttings from her, as she’s such a glory. There is a trellis attached to the other side of the window, where I believe there was once a clematis, though the bad weather has probably done for that. I do like clematis so I’d like to get a new one to replace it.

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January Sowings

I’m so excited! Garden season is finally getting underway. The mornings are getting a little bit lighter, the days that bit longer, and hopefully we’ve seen the last of the snow.

Last week both of my seed orders arrived and I bought myself a little treat – an electric propagator! The temperature in the summer house isn’t enough for my little seedlings and I worried about putting my seedlings on the south-facing windowsill in the little bedroom because I have a cat that just has to jump in windows.

This is my propogator.

I had seen it in the DT Browns/Mr Fothergills catalogues at £37.95 + P&P. Mum had mentioned she’d seen them in our local mecca, Steam and Moorland near Pickering. I called in at Yates’s instead for a rekkie, and would you believe it, I found it – for only £29.95! Still £29.95 more than I really had since it’s three days before pay day and I’m still suffering from Christmas, but if I’m really going to make a go of this, it’s a necessary buy.

It has seven mini-propogators. You could buy some with four, or with just one great big one, but this way I can sow seven different seeds and keep them separate. Most of my seeds need to be in the 15 – 20C or 20 – 23C range, barring two, my dichondra (which was the most expensive set of seeds) and my impatiens which need to be kept at 21 – 23C. The propogator doesn’t have a temperature control, however it will increase the ambient temperature. My idea is that during the day, on warmer days, I won’t have it on, but during the night when it can be a bit colder, I’ll turn it on. This way it hopefully won’t hit my electricity bill as much either.

On Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours in the summerhouse and have started sowing things. I filled all seven mini propogators and have placed it upstairs in its new home.

I’ve started:

  • Lobelia Fountains Mixed
  • Petunia DTB Special Mix Grandiflora
  • Pansy Cool Summer Breeze
  • Antirrhinum Magic Lanterns
  • Fuchsia Foxtrot
  • Gaura The Bride
  • And Moneymaker tomato, as I found a packet still in date (just).

My gaura is for the cut flowers, the rest are for baskets and planters. I really like gaura and bought a potted plant from the market last year and it bloomed all summer. The seeds were free on the Mr Fothergill’s buy 5 get the cheapest free option. My idea is to grow what I can, mainly for my baskets, but if I have an abundance to then sell them on as bedding plants, keeping some back to make up premade baskets and planters to sell.

In the summerhouse I have sweet peas as well.

I will keep you updated with how they get on – if they germinate!

Have you started sowing anything yet? Let me know in the comments!

 

2018 – The Year of the Garden

For the past week or so I’ve been trying to write a post about my goals and resolutions for 2018. I’ve either lost interest halfway through or else got to the end and thought nobody will want to read this. That’s fair enough, because I do believe resolutions are very personal things, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I also think they’re not really relevant to anybody except those that they directly affect. So instead I’m going to write my Gardening Goals for this year, and try to bring my blog back to a more horticulture orientation, like it was in the beginning.

Garden planners

I’ve just made my first seed order of 2018. Last year I didn’t do much at all, other than nursing a dream. So this year I’m going to bypass the dream part and make it a reality! I’ve ordered a selection of January-sowing bedding plants and cut flowers. For a while we’ve talked about selling bedding plants and bunches of cut flowers; I’ve also thought about making and selling hanging baskets and containers. Out of all the things I do, I’ve found making up hanging baskets is the most peaceful, enjoyable way to spend half an hour.

For the past two years I’ve made hanging baskets for home and they’ve done so well with very minimal outlay and input. Now that we’re in a bigger house, there’s more wall space for more baskets! My mum has six baskets up in summer and I’d like that many too. I must say, my mother is the queen of hanging baskets, and she taught me how to do mine.

In the new house we have a decent-sized summer house. Other than housing a lot of riff-raff, it is a waste of space. I wanted to grow plumbago like in the Conservatory at Scampston Walled Garden, but I also want to turn it into a potting shed/greenhouse. It is fairly sheltered, having three mostly covered walls. I made these containers for my Nana for Christmas, and still have some bits left over.

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Last year I thought it might be nice to make hanging baskets and sell them, but something always got in the way. So this year, I’m just going to skip the excuses, and get down to it! I’m going to give growing my own bedding plants and hanging basket plants myself a go, and see if I can make up planters and pots as well as hanging baskets. I would also like to grow cutting flowers, mainly for home and to give as gifts, but possibly to sell bunches of if I have a big stock of them. I will get back into vegetable growing, but even if I just grow enough for home, I’ll be happy with that.

Things to do

Order January-sowing seeds – I did have a little heart attack when DT Browns said they were having a delay on posting seeds out, so hopefully they will come soon! I’ve drawn up an extensive list to order from Mr Fothergill’s as well. Dobies haven’t delivered my catalogue yet, and they are my seed merchant of choice. I’ve set a limit on spending (for this month anyway!) as I can see I’ll get carried away.

Tidy up summer house – this might be a bigger task than first envisaged, as it is full of a lot of junk from the house, but even if I can just make a nice corner to work in. Structurally it’s sound – my Grandad knew what he was doing when he built things. I have my Gardener’s World calendar to hang up, plus I think this will be the home for my whiteboard.

Look at shelves and greenhouse heating – my idea is to have shelving by the glass and also at the back in the shade. With it being still a bit cold in winter, I’m contemplating whether a heater will be a sensible investment. Pay day is still a while off and I’m probably spending what pennies I might have left for that on seeds. Mum did say she has a little paraffin heater so I might play with that.

Equipment – I need to get module trays and pots all washed and cleaned, and also some compost and vermiculite procured from somewhere. I could also do with some decent gloves; my last pair got wrecked up at the farm and the ones I’m using at the moment are definitely more your “decorative” sort.

Vegetable patches – at my mum and dad’s I have a greenhouse and two forlorn vegetable patches. The greenhouse needs cleaning and ideally disinfecting, and the raised beds need digging over with some manure. Handily I know there are great big piles of manure led over the summer so I might need to ask dad if he doesn’t mind me filling the quad trailer with shit. It’s a long way to go with a wheelbarrow.

Order vegetable seeds – in all my excitement about flower seeds, I haven’t actually done any vegetable seed ordering! I’ve made a list of what I want to grow, mainly up at my mum and dad’s. At least now we all live in the same village so I can just walk there. I might even get a bicycle!

Business stuff – it might be a bit early, but I suppose it can’t hurt to be thinking about a name and a logo, if I want to really make a go of it. I’ve already had ideas about logos. I might go down the route of Facebook groups and word-of-mouth stuff first, and see how we get on with stock and the market kitchen idea before going to any larger scale.

Think ahead! – this is always a biggie. I think problems in the past have stemmed from either over-excitement in the beginning leading to burn out, or else not planning correctly. Even though I’m working full time, helping Scott on the farm, doing a house up and trying to finish my book, I still have this deranged idea of devoting time to growing stuff. The best thing I can do is plan my time accordingly, and think ahead. So while I’m sorting out January sowing and setting everything up, I need to think about what to sow in February and March, what can go where, what my space will be like.

So keep checking back, or sign up for updates, to see how my progress is going!

What I did this summer

“What I did this summer”

Hmm, that sounds like a horror movie title… well I don’t think my little life is anything quite like an American horror movie!

It’s been a busy summer and I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a few weeks now, to very little avail. 2015 has been a big year for me – though it doesn’t rightly feel like it, but I’ve made some big decisions and I’m happy to say they were all for the best – and it’s not over yet: who knows what will happen? This summer has flown by – and it’s not really been much of a summer. My vegetable garden is about six weeks behind; I’ve only just managed to harvest my first courgette and have been eating fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for the past two weeks or so. But more on my garden in another post! (She says, with all intents and purposes, as if it might actually happen…)

First things first, I’m writing this from my shiny new laptop! My trusty Dell, which I’ve had since third year uni, started spitting the dummy out a few weeks back: halfway through a major plot point in Grimm season 2, my computer decided to overheat and refuse to come back to life for more than 20 minutes. Maybe it was telling me my Netflix habit was getting out of control, or maybe it was just showing its age. Dad took it apart and cleaned up the fan but it was probably just the start of a few more problems – a five year old laptop has probably run its course. So after Dad losing his temper in PC World, with me and Mum chasing after him (queues + back to uni shopping rush = not a good day for the Loys), I picked up my shiny blue HP from Currys Digital in the Prospect Centre and, aside from adjusting to a new keyboard, I’m dead chuffed.

Mum and I entered our village horticultIMG_6954ural show: cue momentous stress and rage as pastry refused to play fair, rules were lately acknowledged (if at all) and little victories. Overall we were pleased with our hauls: a first prize apiece and a handful of seconds and thirds between us, we now have enough cake to last us through the winter.

Recently I got a Netflix subscription: I’ve been addicted to Grimm (Captain Renard, all the way!), caught up with Once Upon A Time, not to mention I’ve bookmarked a whole load of other shows to watch. However after seeing about a million fandom references on Pinterest, I bought the first series of Supernatural from CEX, and now I’m hooked. I may have to take in all my old DVDs, CDs and games to pay for the rest of the series. So instead of blogging like a good little girl, I’ve been sat in the sewing room scaring myself silly watching ghost stories.

IMG_6790When I’m not watching the Winchester brothers or wasting hours on Pinterest, I’ve been ploughing my way through a mammoth book series. At the beginning of the year, shortly after leaving the PGCE, I began to revisit a series I’d gotten about half way through a couple of years back and stalled on: Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I’m currently over halfway through book twelve of fourteen! It’s been a bit of a quest getting hold of the books: I had books 1 – 8 already, purchased generally in bulk from the second hand bookshop in Pickering, but when they didn’t have the next ones, I think I went to every charity shop I could find within walking distance of work (or walking distance from St Stephens, I should say) to track down the rest. I now have all 14 and am so close to the end, it’s a bit scary! Stay tuned for a full post about this series.

Usually summers for me are a bit of a haze. Most people look forward to summers: teachers for obvious reasons, gardeners for the fruition of months of preparation, and others for, I don’t know, warmth, heat, sunshine. When you work in summer schools, it’s a little different: summer is our busiest time (or rather, May onwards). I’ve worked in summer schools now for six summers (which sounds like an age) and so I tend to spend the best parts of summer in apprehension of what’s going to go wrong next; I’m good at forgetting my birthday in the middle of July. Usually the end of summer is marked for me by a trip to the Nurburgring, and this year was no different! We went at the end of August and it was scorching: I got some interesting tan lines as well as a few laps in. Got some pretty good pictures as well, which eventually I will upload in a separate post about this bi-annual pilgrimage. Last trip of 2015 – sad times!

I’ve got a week off work now, hurrah, so will have time to prep a load of posts, but also to do all those things I’ve not gotten round to yet… like watching the rest of Supernatural series 1 and Grimm series 3, and get closer to the end of the Wheel of Time! ^.^

I’ll make a promise here, too: separate posts on what I’ve learned this summer in my garden, a recap of our trip to Germany, and a rambling incoherent piece about my book series.

Until next time!

My summer garden – an update

This summer so far has been a bit of a funny one – I’m quite sure last year we’d had a good long spell of scorching weather, and I’m sure my tomatoes were much further on than they are this year. I’m praying for a late bit of warmth – extend the season into September. Greenhouse growing isn’t maybe going so well… my tomatoes and cucumbers are doing very well at, ah, growing tall and shooting out lots of leaves; not so well on the setting fruit side of things.

An experiment I did this year involved something I found on Pinterest… growing an avocado bush! Bush? Tree? Plant? It started with the core of an avocado, suspended via cocktail sticks over a glass of water, until it showed a root. I then potted it out and left it in the greenhouse where it would hopefully be warm enough for it. And…voila! An avocado shoot! Pretty impressed.

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Another experiment, or maybe aim should I say, of this year was to achieve what I failed to do last year. If you read my last post (see it here) you might have been surprised (as the feedback I got suggested from a few people!) to read about my success… in growing a cauliflower. Just the one! But check it out:

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I spy with my little eye…?

IMG_6760Obviously I failed a little with the zoom capacity on my camera here. But there’s my cauli, about ready to eat! Any suggestions on how to serve him and do him justice?

I seem to be doing well with my brassicas this year! Here’s a humongous Savoy cabbage:

IMG_6761Doesn’t quite look like the store-bought variety but I bet he tastes grand. I’ve already had two of my greyhound cabbages – they are delish! Here’s a third one: 

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I’ve been serving them up a variety of ways: in summer coleslaws (obvs), or fried cabbage and bacon, and yesterday I gently pan-fried some with some grated courgette to accompany my lamb chops I had for tea!

So my garden is going OK outside. Some of my carrots have bolted, maybe because of the confusing weather. Looks like we might have some home-grown potatoes soon!

So all in all, fairly pleased.

How is your garden growing? Are you having better luck with tomatoes than I am?! If you have any pro tips, let me know!

Thanks!

Katy x

 

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.

 

An Update from My Garden

It’s been a quiet few weeks; sorry about that! I’ve not been very well – I had an awful cold and mega headaches, and even the thought of looking at a computer screen was enough to send me off to bed!

This weekend I’ve been in my garden a lot! April is past the midway point now so things are definitely coming on. My best friend Amy came to help on Saturday: I was meant to be passing on my wisdom but it was more about sharing the work!

We build my salad planter (see picture below), filled it with compost and planted out the spinach and mixed leaves from the greenhouse, dug in the shredded paper from my Minimalist Challenge into the second bed to retain water, repotted the squashes and pumpkins that were poking the roots out, and the courgettes too; we then sowed four different carrots (Harlequin, Red Samurai, Baby carrots and Chanteray), parsnips and salsify in that bed; we planted out the rest of my potatoes, and finally we sowed my Rosella tomatoes! Amy went away with a little courgette and some spinach in pots.

Sunday I sowed All Year Round lettuce, after discovering that Dad can’t stand mixed leave salads (apparently they’re “the weeds that grow at the side of the road”), and the pak choi from the greenhouse into the planter. I then weeded my caulis and cabbages, and sowed some fresh cabbage and broccoli for later in the year. In the papered bed I also sowed some turnips and shallots.

It’s been a busy weekend! I managed a little time with my camera.

Bought from Yorkshire Trading, this is to be my salad planter. I have spinach (back right), mixed leaves (front right), and have now sown All Year Round lettuce (front left) and Pak Choi (rear left).
Bought from Yorkshire Trading, this is to be my salad planter. I have spinach (back right), mixed leaves (front right), and have now sown All Year Round lettuce (front left) and Pak Choi (rear left).
Rosella Tomatoes (for all I keep calling them "Roselia" like the Pokemon!), these are to be dark red cherry tomatoes.
Rosella Tomatoes (for all I keep calling them “Roselia” like the Pokemon!), these are to be dark red cherry tomatoes.
Look at these bad boys! These are my courgettes (black beauty) and with the lovely warm weather we've had they've come on greatly.
Look at these bad boys! These are my courgettes (black beauty) and with the lovely warm weather we’ve had they’ve come on greatly.
These are my Dutch tomatoes (cherries) at the far back, with some Ailsa Craig tomatoes in the fore. There are some peppers hidden somewhere in between if you can see! These have been inside for about a month, and I've brought them into the greenhouse.
These are my Dutch tomatoes (cherries) at the far back, with some Ailsa Craig tomatoes in the fore. There are some peppers hidden somewhere in between if you can see! These have been inside for about a month, and I’ve brought them into the greenhouse.
Here you can see my cucumbers! 5 for 5! So pleased. There are courgettes as well round the edges, but I'm very pleased with my cucumbers! Fingers crossed I can keep them going.
Here you can see my cucumbers! 5 for 5! So pleased. There are courgettes as well round the edges, but I’m very pleased with my cucumbers! Fingers crossed I can keep them going.
Beans! Look at the size of them! These are runners down the middle, mangetout towards the left, which are lovely and flouncy, and on the right edge, dwarf beans.
Beans! Look at the size of them! These are runners down the middle, mangetout towards the left, which are lovely and flouncy, and on the right edge, dwarf beans.
Mange-touty! Last year I grew mangetout from store-bought plants, but I've started these from seed and they look pretty darn good!
Mange-touty! Last year I grew mangetout from store-bought plants, but I’ve started these from seed and they look pretty darn good!

 

What day of the week is it? – a quickie and an update

What is it about Easter week? Fresh off a four-day weekend and I feel like I need another long weekend to get over this one!

And what a full-on weekend it was! I felt like I never stopped. I went to Harrogate to see my best friend from uni on Good Friday, on Saturday I washed Dickie and did loads of gardening, Sunday we went to the Big Breakfast Car Meet at Specialist Cars of Malton where I took loads of photos, and then I baked Mum’s birthday cake in the afternoon, and then Monday was Mum’s birthday so we were pretty much full up with visitors and trips.

I don’t even know what day of the week it is! Is it Wednesday? Thursday?

I was poorly today so had to be off work. I still don’t feel 100%. I have an awful throat and a pounding head. I slept from about half nine yesterday till about half one this afternoon. Oops! Then I took it easy in the afternoon and pottered around in my garden/greenhouse a bit.

I was very happy to see this little buddy peeping up!

Hello little Carmen!
Hello little Carmen!

Now according to gardeners and my Nana, cucumbers are difficult to grow. The back of the packet is enough to put the fear of God into you – must be kept at these temperatures, the first few days are the most important; it’s like getting a puppy! Whatever you do to this cucumber while it’s germinating is something it will remember for the rest of its life. So naturally I was ready to chalk up cucumber growing to my now rather lengthy list of failures (not exclusive to gardening, I might add) – however I am now happy to say so far I have four out of the five seeds all happily germinated and poking their ways upwards into life in my greenhouse!

Hurrah!

Might this be a sign of good things to come? Oohoo, I shall take it as so! If I can nurture a cucumber into life, who knows what I can achieve? Making myself well enough for work tomorrow would be a start!

I will have more updates later on, I promise! On…whatever day of the week it will be!

Katy

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