Trials and Tribulations in the Vegetable Patch

Mid-August, and time for reflection. This year was to be the year of the garden, and I was going to give it all a momentous amount of effort, and become something of a Grow Your Own Queen. Then the weather stepped in, and it all went wrong! Here are my midpoint thoughts on my successes, and not successes, in my vegetable growing endeavours. I will make an additional post about flowers, which was the big focus of this year.


I must have had about sixty tomato plants at one point. I grew three varieties – Gardener’s Delight, Moneymaker and Alicante. I sold as many surplus as I could, at the Society stall or at my drive end, and potted the rest up. I have a mix in tall pots at home, under the cover of the summer house, and the rest in grow bags in the greenhouse. Those in the greenhouse have a fair bit of fruit on and are ripening quite quickly now. The ones outside the summer house are a little behind, with being outside, but a couple of fruit are reddening, so that’s all exciting.

I was given a few small pumpkin plants from the stall and after giving a couple to my friend, the rest I planted out just in my borders. Most are throwing up plenty of male flowers, however one plant has got a big pumpkin growing on him, so I will have to take a lot of care of him.

Beetroots have done well in the raised beds, as they usually do, and Mum sowed some radishes as well. To be honest I think something on the scale of armageddon needs to happen for radishes to not grow! I’ve had a bumper crop of lettuces, too. I sowed All the Year Round for green and Edox for red. I have some small plants that want planting out asap at home somewhere, though I’m not sure how to keep them out of the way of trampling paws.

Things To Learn From

I was going to call this section ‘Failures’ but nothing is a failure if you can take something from it. I had loads and loads of brassicas all growing nicely in the other raised bed at my mum and dad’s. I netted them, put cabbage collars round them, and kept an eye out for little pests. Then the drought happened. The plants are in direct sunlight all day, in a crowded space. I got broccolis and cauliflowers, but they never got any bigger than a fifty pence piece, and then started flowering. Then the caterpillars moved in, and overnight everything was decimated. So I’ve given up on that crop entirely. I had several problems, the main one being space. I sowed lots and lots of seeds, thinking nothing would come up, and all of them did. Suddenly I had all these tiny little plants and nowhere to put them. I thinned them out, but I wasn’t hard enough. I should have reduced them to two plants of each variety and left it at that. Then I could have paid them more attention and I think we would have been on to a winner. So I have learned, and will try again.

I sowed a rake of seeds in the other raised bed: carrots, parsnips, onions, beetroot, and even some flowers, cornflower and cosmos. A few carrots came up, and then one morning I went for a look and they’d all been dug up! My parents live on a very sandy farm which prior to us moving in, had become rabbit nirvana. My mum has six cats and even with them catching a couple of rabbits between them a day, the place is overrun. But I don’t think that is the principle issue here. The main problem I have is poor soil. I sowed a variety of onion/shallot hybrid seeds, and got zilch. Nada. Not a peep. I got one parsnip, who granted is putting on a valiant display. The cornflowers and cosmos were a bit patchy, though they have started putting in a late show, so all is not lost. I’m also never sure about growing onions from seed, and so have ordered a mix of sets from Dobies to try again.

I sowed courgette and butternut squashes one day, and realised I had sown more seeds than I had labels for. I grouped them together, kept them at separate ends of the windowsill, and then one day the chaos fairy must have come and muddled them all back up again. It made very little difference, as all the courgettes bar two rotted in their pots. I saved one piddly plant at home, popped it in a grow bag expecting nothing but disappointment, and I have one, albeit curved, courgette growing. But I won’t use that variety again. And while I have five butternut squash plants taking over the entire garden, I thought I had yet to see any fruit – until today, when I spied a small but very definite squash coming!



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.


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:

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: 


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!


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?

Mum's garden Katy applesIMG_6622IMG_6614IMG_6613IMG_6612IMG_6611IMG_6610IMG_6609IMG_6608IMG_6607IMG_6606IMG_6605IMG_6604IMG_6603IMG_6602IMG_6601


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.


Views from my Greenhouse – Lazy Sunday Update

This will be my 100th post on my blog!!

It’s a lazy Sunday here in Yorkshire. The clocks went forward which meant one less hour in bed. Boo! I got woken up by two little kittens-who-aren’t-really-kittens-anymore spring-boarding back and forth onto my bed. I’m trying to do a little bit of writing before we go to the Living North show at York Racecourse. I used to be an early bird: I always used to be able to get up at half seven/eight on a weekend, get loads of writing done while it was quiet at home. Now if I manage to drag myself out of bed at all, I end up on Facebook or the Daily Mail online, and then the morning’s gone! And I’m usually then in a bad mood which will carry into the rest of the day.

Yesterday I took some pictures in my greenhouse using my new camera, which I am still very much in love with!

Mum's sweet peas are sprouting up quickly now!
Mum’s sweet peas are sprouting up quickly now!
All my onions and leeks, keen and eager!
All my onions and leeks, keen and eager!
Lots of different salad things: spinach, rocket, radish and cos lettuce.
Lots of different salad things: spinach, rocket, radish and cos lettuce.
Chilli peppers closest to the camera survived the frost; some of the tomatoes in back did not.
Chilli peppers closest to the camera survived the frost; some of the tomatoes in back did not.

We had a nasty frost in the middle of last week, and all my cauliflowers shrivelled up, and a bunch of tomato stalks all fell over and have now died. I was a bit upset, yet other things seem to have endured. I think I have some tomato seeds left, so I might have another go next weekend sowing a whole bunch. But I’m running out of space in my greenhouse! Can’t wait for it to get a little bit warmer so I can start planting stuff out.

It’s a short week, hurrah! But I have lots of things to think about. Next weekend is a triple-whammy for me – no, wait, a quadruple-whammy! It’s Mum’s birthday, it’s the Big Breakfast meet, I’m (hopefully!) seeing my best friends from Bristol, and it’s planting time for chitting potatoes!

So much for a holiday!

Enjoy your Sundays guys!



Windy Farm – The DSLR Chronicles

Frosts, Greenhouses, and a new Picture-Taking Device…

Good evening all! Well, it’s evening here in the UK – but hello to one and all, wherever you are!

I’ve had not a very good week. I’ve had a terrible mind-numbing earache all week, so bad that it drove me to the surgery (and this is major, since I tend to lean towards the mindset that you should only go to the doctors’ surgery if you are in a serious situation, and not for a little sniffle or what-have-you), after much to-ing and fro-ing from dismissive pharmacy assistants and jarringly cheerful nurse practitioners.

My car has also been playing up. The Flying Banana is no longer flying! Its get-up-and-go got up and went! A mystery light came up on the dash, and then it wouldn’t build any revs or speed, and I wasn’t about to chug up and down hills for 35 miles with an iffy engine. And now it’s in surgery and I, the girl with three cars, is stranded. A pedestrian!! Unthinkable.

Then it came a hard frost over night. Look at my greenhouse!

25.3.15 A frosty morning

However a package arrived on Tuesday which cheered me up endlessly.

I bought a new camera!

Those of you who may recall my post about the Quest of Week Three (find it here: will remember that I have been searching for my camera for, like, ever! Since I have decided that my role as designated photographer-slash-camera-provider may have, unintentionally and unwittingly, provided somebody with a camera bounty after a night out, a new camera was in order. I use my iPhone but, let’s be honest, the quality is serious iffy.

So I went on tord ‘Bay and had a nosy. I’d heard of these mysterious ‘DSLR’ cameras before, raved about on every single blog and on every Pinterest pin about ‘how to make your blog better’, so I searched for DSLR cameras, looked at the ones ending on Sunday, decided I liked the Canon EOS one, was outbid on two (and went into a consequential rage because of being outbid), my Daddy then found me a buy-it-now, and so I did, and it came yesterday!

I am in love. The photos are amazing! I think I’ll end up looking at my iPhone photos with such derision and contempt now.

Here are some I took this morning!

A little lonely cauliflower... a lot of them seem to have been badly affected by frost!
A little lonely cauliflower… a lot of them seem to have been badly affected by frost!
The "Dutch" tomatoes and peppers, living in the utility room.
The “Dutch” tomatoes and peppers, living in the utility room.
Some onions... wow, the DSLR really shows up the green coming on the compost!
Some onions… wow, the DSLR really shows up the green coming on the compost!
My Ailsa Craig onions.
My Ailsa Craig onions.
Lots of little guys poking up here in my salad starters!
Lots of little guys poking up here in my salad starters!
Tomatoes that, unlike the Gardener's Delight, have resisted the cold - despite being uncovered overnight!
Tomatoes that, unlike the Gardener’s Delight, have resisted the cold – despite being uncovered overnight!

Ooooh, I’m ever so pleased! Expect a lot more photographs now folks!

It’s about to get serious!

I hope you all enjoy.



Grow, my pretties… Windowsill growing

These are what I call my “Dutch seedlings”. Mum brought them back for me from a Dutch garden centre when they went to Germany (without me!) last August.

They hadn’t shown much promise in the greenhouse, so I moved them onto the windowsill of the spare bedroom, and look at them now!

Little green soldiers standing to attention
Little green soldiers standing to attention

This photo was taken on, ooh, Friday morning – they’ve grown a few more millimetres since then! So here I have my “Dutch cherry tomatoes”, “Dutch peppers” in a mix of colours, and then some Ailsa Craig toms, because I had a few seeds left in the packet.

Isn’t it funny how they’re not growing in these modules nearest the end?! Is it because they’re that little bit further away from the light? I turned them around, but not much seemed to happen.

Then I had to move the seedlings off the guest room windowsill due to a water-related incident… on an aside, white toothpaste (not the gel stuff) works absolute wonders on getting pesky water stains off painted wood surfaces! They are now living in the utility room until they’re a wee bit bigger, and then I shall move them out to my greenhouse.

So far I seem to be swamped with tomatoes! I think I have about four trays of tomatoes coming on. I’m hoping that they will all grow big and strong, and I might be able to sell some decently sized plants at the WI plant stall.

I will run around and take some more pictures today as part of my Greenhouse Sunday. Some things are coming on mighty fine…others, not so much.

Till laterz!



Sunday Night Dinner

Hello bloggers! 

Now I know what you’re thinking – Sunday dinner? Roast chicken, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, veggies… Wait a minute. Now that’s your traditional Sunday dinner. But at Windy Farm I decided to mix it up a bit.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it last night!

Please check out the original recipe here:

I thought the picture looked to die for! I’ve made a normal coq au vin, with red wine, a few times with Mum and it’s always been really lovely. The thing that drew me to this one was the lightness that the white wine would give to it. So I decided to make it this weekend, and it became our Sunday tea!

I mixed it up a little bit, and used my Pampered Chef stone baker. I love my stone baker – I’m trying to use it a lot more. I used thigh pieces, only half a bottle of wine, home-grown red onions (that I’d found in my raised bed as I was digging it over – oops!), button and chestnut mushrooms and some carrot. I served it with garlicky crushed potatoes and spring onions, with some cabbage.

It was delish!

Then I made this very cool picture on Fotor, which I’ve only just discovered:

A Coq Au Vin Blanc in 8 steps! Very easy and very scrummy. Perfect Sunday dinner!
A Coq Au Vin Blanc in 8 steps! Very easy and very scrummy. Perfect Sunday dinner!
  1. Fry off some bacon lardons. I used lardons and a rasher of smoky bacon. When fried, put aside – I put it straight into my stone baker. No fat was added, except what was on the bacon!
  2. Preheat the oven to 180/350. Chop up some mushrooms, carrot and onions/shallots.
  3. Brown off the chicken.
  4. Put it on top of the lardons.
  5. In the fatty frying pan, add the mushrooms. I’m not a mega mushroom fan (I do find them slimy and greasy) but in a dish like this, where they’re hidden in a sauce, I don’t mind them at all.
  6. Add the carrot and onion to the mushrooms. Crush some garlic (I used my Pampered Chef garlic crusher. Gosh this is like a Pampered Chef advert! I’m even using a Pampered Chef wooden spoon!) and chuck that in. Then pour in as generous a glug (i.e. half a bottle) of white wine! Bring to a simmer, then add some chicken stock. I did quite a good bit of stock – about 300ml.
  7. Pour all that onto the chicken & bacon. Then stick in the oven. Cook for… ooh, mine was in there about an hour.
  8. Meanwhile, get on with your co-stars! I peeled and boiled lots of big white potatoes, finely chopped some springies, crushed some garlic, and mashed them loosely with some butter and cream. I boiled some savoy cabbage without wilting it to oblivion. Serve piping hot with the remainder of the wine! Scrummy!

So that was my version of Coq au Vin Blanc a la Katy! Please give it a try – it was really easy and really tasty.

Let me know how you get on!



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?



A Mysterious Order…

Hello gardening and blogging friends!

I received a mysterious parcel the other day. It was a cardboard box and this is what it looked like:

Live plants?! Whatever could be in here...?
Live plants?! Whatever could be in here…?

How mysterious!

I quickly tore into the box to reveal:


These are my extra earlies, from DT Brown. They are called Casablanca and there’s about thirty of them in here! I got a big box, lined it with lots of shredded paper (utilising my shredder, which is my favourite gadget at the moment, shredding all my documents from uni), and put them in that, and put the box in the shower room, where it’s cool but dry and light (as no one uses the shower in there, and it’s basically now turned into a potato chitting factory and is the place where my riding hat languishes, unused and unloved).

Now a few weeks later, they’re chitting away, so I shall have to think about getting some soil and getting ’em planted out.

Top tip! Ideal soil for potatoes to be grown in containers or potato sacks – mole hills! Mr Mole has kindly done a lot of the work for you: mole hills are good loamy soil. Just make sure a well-intentioned dog-walker hasn’t used said mole hill as a clever hiding place for a doggy bag! We have lots of hills on our fields that the dog walkers *shouldn’t* get to, so I might get the quad and trailer out, and go get a load of soil. That’ll possibly be next weekend’s job.

Happy gardening!

Katy x

The Big Allotment Challenge

Has anyone else been watching The Big Allotment Challenge? Already it’s over – it seems to have gone by so soon. I was pleased: one evening I live-tweeted, and The Big Allotment Challenge favourited my tweet! And then all of a sudden I had an influx of twitter followers – I was ever so pleased!

It’s been very useful to watch for me, as an amateur grower. Though personally I did think that more time could have been spent on the how to grow section. Something so very difficult to grow, like a cauliflower, was over and done with in a flash. No mention of cabbage collars – and the little seedlings had them on! And naturally, I have a history with cauliflowers, considering all of last year’s crop was wiped out.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this year’s programme. I do find it a bit of an odd piece of scheduling: on a Friday night? Surely such a programme is more suited to a mid-week, Bake-Off slot? But I suppose I don’t know much about those sorts of things.

This year is my proper growing year in earnest. Last year was my training year: it started a bit late on, and I was greenhouse-less. This year I’m going for it, all guns blazing! I have my greenhouse – with shelves!! – and my two beds, and I have ordered my seeds, and my seed potatoes, and my potato grow bags.

One day I may even be a contender for The Big Allotment Challenge! I wanted Jojo or Rob to win, so I was very pleased for Rob. Poor Jojo did have a bit of a mare in this last episode. I didn’t much like Sandra: I thought she was manipulative, and her cruel remarks about the youngest contestant in the early episodes did stay with me. What utter growing heaven though! Heated greenhouse, a huge plot, and all within the lovely enclosed walls. But I don’t think my garden is too bad.