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 upĀ 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!

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The Raised Bed Diaries 2017

When I first started this blog, it was about two things: Dickie, my little blue Subaru, and gardening. I was never much into gardening when I was young – always much more interested in reading and writing and that sort of thing. But when we moved to the farm, I decided I wanted to try my hand at vegetable growing. So my dad made me a pair of raised beds out of old railway sleepers and got me a little greenhouse that every time a storm struck, all the glass blew out of. True to my bookworm roots I bought loads of books on veg growing and started out. The first year was quite successful, the second year somewhat so, and then the third year I had moved into my house and my weekends seemed to get filled up doing other things. Mum kept the beds going, but I hadn’t manured either of them since the beginning and our land is sandy, hungry land that doesn’t do much on its own.

Continue reading “The Raised Bed Diaries 2017”

August Reflection: Moonlight Gardeners

It’s my last week at work. I finish on Friday, with the intention of spending the next three weeks focusing on finishing my nightmare of a dissertation, before I start my PGCE in September. When I’m meant to read the books I should be teaching I don’t know!

I thought it would be nice, since I’ve been regaling my colleagues with tales of my gardening adventure, to bring in a selection of my own homegrown produce for people to pick out what they want. Ready for harvesting are a variety of things: courgettes, runners, onions, spinach, mangetout, beetroot, Cos lettuce, rainbow and rhubarb chard, and, very recently, carrots and potatoes!

I’ve picked a selection of the above and will try to prep them in the morning, if I get up in time – something which is increasingly becoming more and more difficult as time wears on. I think I’m running out of steam, which I am panicking about as I don’t have much time to breathe before I get thrown into what’s probably going to be the hardest thing I will ever do!

So when things are getting really tough and I start to feel a bit down or snowed under, I like to take a bit of time out to go and look at all my wonderful things that are growing in my beds and dotted around the “manor grounds”. I’m so pleased I had this opportunity to do something like this! When I was at university I used to bake lots of cakes to try and destress, which gives you an immediate sort of buzz, but then it wanes after a while. Because growing vegetables, particularly from seed, is such a gradual process, it extends the feeling of working and producing something quite remarkable. And it is remarkable! As cheesy as that sounds, to plant a tiny seed in some compost or some soil, and then a couple of weeks later to find a little green shoot poking its nose up is one thing. But to actually nurture that one thing into flourishing and then into getting fruit is just a crazy thing! I’ve never thought of myself as much of a ‘nurturer’ – as an only child I’m fairly impatient, and used to finding numerous ways to entertain myself, so that when my attention wanes, which is rather often, it’s normally caught up by the next shiny thing – and so I did approach this whole gardening-vegetable-growing venture hesitantly, thinking I’d never get things to shoot, let alone fruit!

This past week I have been rewarded with two of my trickier crops. I’ve had my fair share of problems: the cauliflower/turnip disaster for one. But I have been quietly concerned about my carrots and my potatoes. I drowned half of my potatoes early on, when the idea of drilling holes into the bottom of my bins never crossed my mind. Two buckets remained; they’re not really buckets, as such: one is a big blue bin, and the other is a potato grow-sack thing. I hacked away at the green tops when they had flowered and were starting to bend. I then left them for two weeks, not really purposefully, but because I’m a busy lady, and have had a lot on my plate of late. Then this afternoon – or rather, this evening, Mamma and I decided to dig them up! For a while nothing much happened… I was pulling out potatoes the size of grapes, which was sad. But then I found a good sized one, who happily sat in my fist! We emptied out the whole bin and I got a plant pot full of potatoes – some new-pot sized, and some a good bit bigger! I’m so dead pleased. I also have started pulling up a few carrots. The soil is quite stony and I have been worried that they might distort – however I’ve pulled a dozen or so, and they are straight as can be! I had a couple with my lunch today, and they are lovely and sweet, so I’m a very happy bunny!

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So here is tonight’s harvest! It was dark when I took this photo in the outside light, hence the interesting shadows. I picked a bunch of carrots, a couple of beetroots, a mix of chard and lettuce leaves, some kale (which I forgot to mention in my list of things ready) plus some mangetout, which you can’t really see. But check out my potatoes! Oh I’m ever so pleased I can actually grow things.

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Look at those potatoes! Aren’t they beauts?

IMG_1764I’m just so pleased with how things are turning out. It’s been pretty tough these past few weeks, juggling work and my uni work, and I maybe haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to play in my garden. But the results I’m getting at the moment are making me feel so much better! If I just keep organised and on top of things, then maybe everything will be OK. But I’ve learnt that I can grow carrots and potatoes!

And that was a very lengthy post!