Gardening/ growing update – May 2014

The latest update is mostly from inside my conservatory (I don’t have a green house), as the nights have been so cold I haven’t had much success with planting things out yet.

The few squash family plants I have planted out have either died or I have dug them back up and brought them in, in the hope I can revive them!

Although my Runner Beans are fairly Hardy and they seem to be doing alright!

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I have had to stake some of my plants (attach plants with wire or string to large straight sticks) to support them as they grow!

These include broccoli, Brussel sprout, peas and I am considering my options for growing my cucumber (which already has a small one visible) and peas in the conservatory for the time being.

NEW SEEDS SOWN, My other half took me to a garden center over the bank holiday where we bought YELLOW courgette seeds and YELLOW large tomatoes (you can hollow them out and fill them, much as you would with peppers)!

Variety is the spice of life 🙂



Cute Garden Craft, ‘thrifty’ Ideas

1) My Plastic milk bottle bird feeders worked well (how to in a prev post – also under craft in categories).

bird feeder


2) Making garden signs using broken slate tile pieces and acrylic paint.

They aren’t professional by any stretch of the imagination but I really had fun making them 🙂

I didn’t  realize how hard it was to write in paint!

 garden sign

garden sign 2

The words need to be gone over again and I think I should have made my Lady bird simpler but I still think they are cute.

Here is a video I found about making holes in slate (in case you want to hang it up)

3) My next Idea was re using tin cans, the type that are coated with plastic on the inside,

using a nail and hammer to knock holes in the bottom, I painted them then planted them up.

planted tin cans

tin rockery

This one is one of my favourites, it’s like a mini rockery, the edge of the tin could do with a tidy up, but I really like the gravel, I think white gravel or bright ‘fish tank’ gravel would look really funky too.



Veg Patch – Garden update April 2014

My Veg Patch runs up against a brick wall and has a tree in the middle with a small patch of flowers and plants in front of the tree (the trees roots make the soil very shallow here and there for hard to grow veg directly in front of the tree).

I talked about finding a use for my collection of old glass bottles in a previous post and decided to string some up in my tree,

kays garden veg patch

I think I need fishing wire instead, the string I’ve used distracts too much from the bottle display and it would be nice to have a variety of coloured glass, I think blue would look effective.

In the tree you can also see my home-made bird feeder using a clean plastic milk bottle, as described in a previous post.

On the left is a hanging basket of strawberries, I said last year I was going to experiment with different planters to grow Strawberries in.

After weeding my veg patch and fertilizing the soil and hardening off my seedlings when they were big enough, I started to plant them out.

kays veg patch

I strung up my garden string for my beans on the brick wall using nails and made a rough sketch idea of what to plant where according to height and requirements.

I’ve had to leave spaces for seeds that haven’t sprouted yet, like my cabbage seeds.

The black upturned flower-pot marks a spot that I need to put a flat patio slab or something similar so I have something to stand on when I pick my Runner beans.


To encourage the Rhubarb to grow up towards the light I cut a whole in the bottom of a plastic bucket and turned up upside down and weighted it down with rocks.

My Veg patch suffers terribly with snails and slugs I use finely crushed up egg shells around the base of my plants to put them off.

egg shell

Currently planted in the veg patch I’ve got a row of parsnips, row of radishes, row of leeks and one cauliflower.

Lots of Squash family plants, runner beans a few Beef tomatoes and the Rhubarb from last year.

In grow bags I’ve got carrots and potatoes.

In other pots in the garden I’ve got lots of herbs, another lot of potatoes and carrots recently sown.

I also have a bucket/ pot of salad leaves, but I’ve had to cover them with netting and smother them with egg-shell because I have so much trouble with slugs, snails and birds!

Still to be planted out, peas, another variety of bean, and Broccoli when they are bigger!

I’ll keep you updated.


Spring time planting


February/ March is the time when I can start to plant seeds in the green house (or in my case the conservatory) where they will still be protected incase there’s a frost!


Here are some of my seeds so far this is about 1-2 weeks after planting.

I’m starting off my Beetroot seeds indoors this time because despite my best efforts the slugs and snails munched the new leaves away so quickly last year they just didn’t grow!

The ‘Squash family’ did really well last year so I’ve got courgettes, pumpkin and butternut seeds in.

This years greens are Cabbage, broccoli, peas, runner beans and salad leaves.

 Two variety’s of tomatoes (large ‘Beef’ tomatoes and small sweet money-maker cherry tomatoes) in a home-made propagator. – Which consists of a deep plastic ‘cake box’ and cling film over the top.


I started to prep the garden as soon as there was a hint of sunshine by cutting away dead brown plants, checking to see if my strawberry plants had survived, weeding my veg patch and fertilising the soil ready for this year.

I planted Radishes, Parsnips and leeks in the veg patch, and potatoes and carrots in some sturdy green grow bags I bought from pound land.

I also declared war on the Ivy growing in, around and through my fence!


I realise now that it would have made more sense to have taken before and after photos 😀 but you can imagine from how much Ivy is on the grass, just how covered the fence was!

I think the fence and band stand could do with a scrub or power wash too – they are looking a bit green :/


It’s a hard life watching all this gardening! 😀




Foraging in Febuary! :)

Things to forage in Febuary!

Lots of Greens;

  • Dandelion Leaves
  • Chickweed
  • Nettles and White Nettle or Dead Nettle
  • Good king Henry and Fat Hen
  • Goose grass

Always forage away from the road (pollution) and not on the edge of public dog walks if you can help it (dogs like to ‘water’ wild plants)! Always forage in places you have permission to only and do not over forage!

Greens are such a fab thing to forage while they’re in abundance because you can prepare cook and freeze.

High in vitamins, they are great to drop into stews, soups and curry!

I have noticed some of the greens I associate with summer are around now, maybe it’s because everything is lush and green from the rain?

Today I am talking about WHITE NETTLES or DEAD NETTLES.

These Nettles are not stingy, the ‘fur’ on them is soft, the leaves are slightly less jagged compared to the common nettle and a lighter lime green colour.

They also have pretty white flowers (pictured below) and the more mature stems can have a reddish purple colour.

The purpose of this picture is so you can see the flowers (I would pick Lush green leaves to eat rather than the ones shown here)

Above you can see the red/purple hue to the stem.

Most people just eat the leaves, the flowers are also edible.

Cooked Nettles are alot like spinach they wilt down to nothing so you need ALOT to make a decent sized handful once cooked.

I start by stripping the leaves and thoroughly washing and draining them.

Then into a pan on a low-med heat I cook them stirring occasionally until they are completely wilted (approx 10 mins).

A good way to check if they are cooked is to eat one, if they still feel ‘furry’ in your mouth they need further cooking.

Next unless you’re adding them straight to your meal, prepare an empty ice-cube tray.

Once they have cooled, ball them into small amounts, squeeze excess water out and squish them into your ice-cube trays and freeze.

Once frozen you can pop them out and put them in a labeled freezer bag/container and they will be ready for you to add to future meals much like cooked frozen spinach.

In a future Post I will put up  Recipe for ‘Chick pea Curry’ with wilted foraged white nettle leaves and home-made chapatis. 🙂 x

Chutneys, Jams and Pickles

I promised in my last post about preserving I’d include some recipes of preserves I’ve made so here you go 🙂 plum jam and Piccalilli

When the Bullis (a type of small plum) were ripe I foraged as much as I could, washed, halved and stoned them and put them in the freezer so I could make jam at a later date.


I decided to make piccalilli to use up some courgettes, marrow and green tomatoes that have been kicking around.

There are many ways of sterilizing your clean glass jars for preserving.

The way I do it, is to put my dish washer onto a Hot cleaning programme.

They come out of the dish washer dry, and I fill them while both jam and jars are still hot.



3kg washed,halved stoned plums

2kg Sugar (Adjust sugar to taste, sugar amount depends on plum size)

20g butter

Also needed:

Wear an apron, boiling jam can spit and burn you! Set of weighing scales, Large Sauce pan, wooden spoon, 1 large metal tbsp, Sterilised glass jars, wax discs to seal the jam, Lids or cellophane disc & rubber band with decorative disc(optional),Spatula, Funnel and Ladel, Jam labels or white sticky labels and either a permanent marker or a biro (I don’t recommend a gel pen as they smudge).


1) Add plums and sugar to a large pan on a low heat, simmer for 30 mins.


2) Then bring to a rapid boil for 15 mins.

3) Remove any scum that forms with a metal spoon and discard,

stir the mixture regularly with your wooden spoon.

4) To test whether your jam is ‘set’ I have two handy tips,

Holding your wooden spoon upright touching the bottom of the pan,you drag your wooden spoon through the jam in a straight line if there’s a moment when you can see the bottom of the pan before the jam closes the gap again that’s a pretty good indication it’s thick enough and set.

The other  tip to try is using a chilled plate spoon a little of your mixture onto it, leave for 5 mins then using your finger draw a line in it, if a skin forms this is another good indication it has set!

5) Stir the butter into the jam (this will dissipate any remaining scum).

6) Allow the jam to cool a little then using ladel pour into the warm sterilised glass jars using the funnel. Use spatula to get any remaining jam out.

Then top with a wax disk/ grease proof paper disc while still warm. Once cool top with lids or cellophane disc, rubber band and pretty paper or material disc.

7) Don’t forget to label your jars with the name, date and if you like something personal like where you foraged the fruit.




1kg/2lb chopped veg, cucumber/ courgette, marrow, carrots, peppers,

pickling onions, cauliflower, beans, green tomatoes, (pieces no bigger than a sugar cube)

125g/5oz salt

75g/3oz  Caster Sugar

15g/ half oz dry mustard powder

5ml/1 tsp ground ginger

600ml/1 pt malt vinegar

25g/1 oz cornflour

15ml/ 1 tbsp turmeric

Also needed:

Wear an apron, boiling preserves can spit and burn you! Set of weighing scales, colander, Large Sauce pan, wooden spoon, 1 large metal tbsp, Sterilised glass jars, wax discs to seal the jam, Lids or cellophane disc & rubber band with decorative disc(optional),Spatula, Funnel and Ladel, Jam labels or white sticky labels and either a permanent marker or a biro (I don’t recommend a gel pen as they smudge).


1) Take small chopped veggie pieces and layer in a sauce pan, veggies layer table salt veggie layer table salt and so on, until all your veggies ar in the pan.

2) Top up with cold tap water and leave over night.

3) The next day rinse thoroughly (I found the use of a colander helped alot),

4) Mix sugar, Mustard and ginger (BUT NOT TUMERIC OR CORNFLOUR) with 450 ml of vinegar in a large saucepan, bring to the boil.

5) Add veggies, return to the boil; cover and simmer gently until tender-crisp (NOT cooked through NOT mushy) for about 10 mins.

6) Blend cornflour and turmeric with remaining vinegar, add to the pan, return to the boil for about 2 mins.

7) Using Ladel Pack veggies into sterilised jars, with the funnel in it,use spatula to get any remaining sauce, Seal and label. Leave at least 2 wks before opening for flavours to mature.


 Check in again with me soon for more updates, Recipes, photos Reviews and Projects 🙂 xx