Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Start Of The Gardening Year

I may have already spent time tidying up the garden and pottering on the allotment, but I class the start of my gardening year as the day when the first seeds are sown. That day was last Saturday when I sowed my sweet peas, stocks and also some broccoli - Summer Purple. The seed trays may not look like much at the moment, but I'm hoping that there'll soon be little green shoots appearing through the compost.

The sweet peas I'm growing are from a collection of different varieties. They're left overs from previous years, and as I'm trying to whittle down all the packets of opened seed in my collection, I thought these would do nicely. The varieties (and descriptions on the packet) are White Ensign (beautifully scented, large flowers in a classic pristine white), Noel Sutton (large fragrant flowers in a stunning rich blue), Air Warden (perfumed, large flowers in a vibrant scarlet-red), Mrs R. Bolton (beautifully scented, large flowers in a very pretty, bright pink) and Beaujolais (large, fragrant flowers in an elegant, deep burgundy-maroon). I also had a few seeds left in the New Horizons Mix packet so I sowed those too.

I've always thought of stocks as biennials, but the ones I've sown are Dwarf Ten Week Mixed. These should flower from twelve to fourteen weeks after sowing.

Both the sweet peas and the stocks are being grown for cut flowers, so I shall plant them out at the allotment. I hate cutting flowers from the garden for the house, but I don't mind if they're being grown on the plot.

I love purple sprouting broccoli, and as I didn't have any this winter, I thought I'd grow some to be harvested in summer. These seeds can be sown during the first three months of the year and should be ready to harvest between June and September.

I also got my onions and shallots planted up in to modules to get them started. Once they've put out some green shoots, they can be transplanted in to the ground. In previous years, I've had to wait quite a while before the allotment was in a decent enough state to get them planted out, the plot held on to so much water which the onions wouldn't have liked, they'd have likely rotted. The soil on my new plot seems to be in a much better state. We've already been able to do some digging, even with all the rain. It seems to drain so much better.

We don't tend to use very many onions or shallots as Mick is very fussy about the dishes he likes onions in, and there aren't many. Daniel doesn't like onions at all. Therefore, I don't tend to grow many, yet they still last for quite a while. I've got just short of a full seed tray of Turbo onions, that's slightly less than forty and just over a full seed tray of Red Baron, just over forty. I'm growing two different kinds of shallots, Yellow Shallot and Red Sun, they take up a seed tray between them with slightly larger modules, twenty three shallots in total, though of course I'm hoping to harvest more than twenty three shallots once the sets have split and produced more bulbs.

The flower seeds are residing on a sunny windowsill at the moment, but the onions and shallots have had to be put in the porch until the greenhouse is fixed. There's so many panels missing due to the high winds that it's not doing its job of protecting plants from the elements at all. We've ordered some new polycarbonate to replace the panels which have blown out and that should be delivered today. We knew we'd be needing some soon anyway as it doesn't last forever, it does wear with age.

I'm hoping that the snow forecast for this weekend stays away from here so that Mick can get it all put back together again, I've been without my greenhouse long enough now.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Rosehips On A Kitchen Table Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of Rosehips On A Kitchen Table by Carolyn Caldicott. I'm pleased to announce that the name drawn out of the hat at random was Pam from A Good Life In Tydd. Congratulations, Pam. Can you please let me have your name and address details so that I can pass these on to the publishing company so they can send out your prize.

Just to whet your appetite, here's a few more images from the book.

I'm definitely looking forward to giving some of these recipes a go.

Don't forget, if anyone fancies buying a copy of this book, the publishing company are offering it at the discounted price of £7.99 including p&p. Please look at my Rosehips On A Kitchen Table post for details.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Garden Visiting In February

I'm making a point of visiting a garden each month this year. Yesterday, we decided to head off to Roundhay Park in Leeds to take a look at The Specialist Gardens. We started off in the Gardens Of The World.

The first garden you come to is The Monet Garden.

The central pathway, or grand allee, running from Monet's garden gate to his house in Giverny has been recreated. The information board shows how it will look in summer, it was rather stark in February, though a few pansies have been planted in the borders to give, at least, some colour.

The Alhambra Garden is a reproduction of the Patio Acequia, part of the Palace of the Alhambra, the summer residence of the Moorish rulers of Spain.

You can see warning cones have been placed half way down the channel. This is because a couple of the trees are leaning precariously, victims of the recent storms, no doubt.

Leeds City Council have been exhibiting at The Chelsea Flower Show for a number of years. The 2008 Chelsea Garden won a silver gilt flora award.

Entitled The Largest Room In The House, it was based on the garden at Talbot House in Poperinghe near Ypres in Belgium. Talbot House offered rest and recuperation away from the horrors at the front to soldiers between 1915 and 1918.

The Hesco Garden 2009 highlighted some of the issues surrounding climate change, and also won a silver gilt flora award.

Different techniques were used to illustrate how we can manage the issue of flooding, something we should be addressing at the moment, given the weather we've encountered this winter.

The Hesco Garden 2010 was Leeds City Council's first gold medal winning garden.

This garden shows a snapshot of the green spaces in Leeds with woodland, wetland and floral meadow. The focal point is a pair of seeping lock gates, typically found on the iconic Leeds-Liverpool canal.

Seen from a different angle, this shows where the planting will come in to play once summer arrives.

The latest garden to be installed at Roundhay Park is The Hesco Garden 2011. This also won a gold medal at Chelsea.

The centrepiece of this garden is the traditional mill as seen in Yorkshire during the industrial revolution, complete with a working water wheel which pumps water around the garden.

The garden contains rockwork, trees and water-loving ferns and plants.

I did a post about the Gardens Of The World on my Through The Keyhole blog back in 2011. The Roundhay Park post shows the gardens as they look in May, very different from how they look in February.

We popped across the road to take a look at the Canal Gardens.

You can see it was a beautiful day. The temperature had soared in to double figures and lots of people had the same idea as us. The gardens had plenty of visitors.

The problem with herbaceous borders is that there isn't much to see in winter. There were pleny of signs in the borders though, which makes me think they'll be stunning come summer.

These low box hedges surrounded roses. I bet they look fabulous when they're flowering. Lots of children, and adults, seemed to think it was a maze, even though gates had been put up to block any entrances. Parents were lifting children over the hedges for them to run around, and even stepped over them themselves. I hope they haven't damaged the roses. Why can't people enjoy things for what they are?

It was a very enjoyable day out, I can thoroughly recommend a visit if you're in the area.

After visiting the gardens, we took Archie for a run in Roundhay Park. Pop over to my Through The Keyhole blog to see the remaining photos I took of the day on A Sunny Day post.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Tuesday the 25th of February 2014 to do so. Just leave a comment on my Rosehips On A Kitchen Table post.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Rosehips On A Kitchen Table

The latest book I've been asked to review is Rosehips on a Kitchen Table by Carolyn Caldicott. This book has recently been published by Frances Lincoln ( , @Frances_Lincoln).

Subtitled Seasonal Recipes For Foragers & Foodies, the book looks at ways to turn foraged and unusual ingredients as well as gluts into delicious meals and desserts, as well as jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles, pesto and cordials.

The book is divided in to different sections:- Rich Pickings, Gleaning, Grow Your Own, Gluts and What On Earth Can I Do With This? I particularly like the fact that not only does the book cater for the forager, but also for people who grow their own.

Each ingredient is introduced with information about it and tips on how to use, cook and eat it.

This is followed by several recipes where the featured ingredient is the star of the show.

I was pleased to find wild garlic featured in the Gleaning section. This grows in abundance in my local wood, though I've never used it before. The recipe for Wild Garlic Dauphinoise may just tempt me to give it a try, it looks delicious.

The Grow Your Own section covers such things as rhubarb, sorrel, chard and chillies, amongst others. The Chilli and Cider Mussels recipe may just encourage me to grow chillies again, I have a penchant for mussels.

Gluts covers such things as strawberries, runner beans and the thing we all must have been overrun with at one time or another, courgettes. It's good to have some new recipes to have a go at when the gluts return.

The What on Earth do I do with This? chapter is a very good idea. Vegetables such as beetroot and brussels sprouts are featured as well as fruit such as gooseberries and quince. Some of these things get a bad press, but it's probably because we just don't know any enticing recipes to use them in. Take brussels sprouts, boiling or steaming is as far as I go with them, but Creamy Brussels Puree With Walnuts, or Brussels Stir-Fry With Ginger, Cumin and Chilli sounds much more appetising.

All in all, this is a very nice little book which looks at over twenty ingredients and contains over fifty recipes. I wouldn't try all the recipes covered but I'd certainly have a go at some of them.

The publishers are offering a copy of this book as a giveaway prize, so if you'd like to be in with a chance of winning it, just leave a comment on this post before twelve noon on Tuesday the 25th of February 2014, after which, a name will be drawn at random. Please note that this giveaway is open to UK/EU only and that I will be passing on the winner's name and address details to the publishing company in order for them to send out your prize.

To order Rosehips on a Kitchen Table at the discounted price of £7.99 including p&p* (RRP: £9.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG97. 

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to: 
LBS Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex, BN13 3RB. 

Please quote the offer code APG97 and include your name and address details. 

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


We had a snow flurry last night. Luckily, it didn't settle, the rain washed it away as quickly as it had arrived. The dull, rainy weather we've been experiencing hasn't tempted me to go to the plot over the last couple of weeks, so instead, I've been sorting out my seeds.

I've got so many seeds there's no way I'll ever get round to sowing them all, so I sort through them, see which I want to grow this year and then I stack them in to sections in my seed box according to the month they need to be sown. This way, I don't forget to sow anything. Any seeds I want to sow more than one batch of, such as lettuce or spring onions, can be put back in to a different monthly section after sowing, so it helps with successional sowing too.

I didn't realise quite how many packets of peas and beans I've got. Actually it's mainly beans, some dwarf French, some climbing, some runner, some green and some purple. Oh, broad beans too, though I'm not growing them this year. Some of the packets are already opened, some aren't, so I've decided that I'm going to grow a variety of beans this year, mainly just to use up all the opened packets. It will add a bit of variety too.

I've sorted some flowers out too. I can sow my sweet peas any time now, but I'm in no rush so I'll probably leave it until the end of the month. Every year I say that I want to grow some biennials, such as Sweet Williams and Stocks, but I still haven't got round to it yet. I've popped them in my seed box, yet again, in the hope that this will be the year that I do.

Once I've sorted out my seed box, there's always one or two other things that get popped in there later. I'd already made up my mind to grow parsnip Tender and True this year, but I received a free packet of  White Gem with Kitchen Garden magazine, and as parsnip seed needs to be fresh when sown, they won't keep for next year. They've been popped in the box and I'll sow two varieties instead of one. At least I'll be able to compare the two.

Most of the seeds need to be sown over the next three months, with the majority around the end of March/April time. It's going to be a busy few months.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Lagging Behind

The bulbs which I planted in containers in autumn are getting ready to flower. This is crocus Advance. It's lilac on the outside and yellow on the inside so it should make for a pretty display. We just need a bit of sunshine to bring it on, but that seems to have disappeared after the bright start to the week, it's back to dull days and lots of rain again.

As you can see, just about all the crocuses are at the same stage.

That is except this one which is lagging a long way behind. I wonder why it hasn't grown at the same rate as the rest of them.

This is iris reticulata Gordon. These are such cute little flowers so I'm looking forward to them blooming. I haven't grown Gordon before, I think he's a darker colour than the popular Katharine Hodgkin, I shall soon see.

The narcissus Tete a Tete don't look as though they're ready to flower quite yet.

I'm a little worried about my daffodils Professor Einstein which have only just started to poke one or two noses above the soil. I've got daffodils in the garden which are growing at quite a pace so I'm wondering if the container grown daffodils are going to grow at all. Time will tell.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Full Set

I visited a local garden centre and nursery at the weekend and bought my onion and shallot sets ready for the approaching growing season.

I've tried growing onions from seed for the past couple of years, but they certainly haven't done any better than growing them from sets, worse if anything, so I'm giving that a miss this year.

The onion sets I've gone for are Turbo and Red Baron. I grew Turbo in 2011 and I was really pleased with them so I hope they do as well for me again this year. I haven't had any luck at all previously with red onions. I don't treat them any differently to other onions I grow, yet they just never seem to get going at all, so in true gardener spirit, I'm giving them yet another try.

I'm trying two kinds of shallots, one which was named as Yellow Shallot (on the left) and the other, Red Sun (on the right). As you can see, this has a reddish tinge to the skin.

I'm not going to do anything with them yet, but when the time comes, I shall plant them in to modules to get them going before planting them out.
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