Wednesday 30 December 2015

The End Of An Era

It was back in March 2009 that I took on my first allotment and I started this blog on the 1st of April so that I could track the progress I made on it. This is the first photo I posted and shows the plot as it was before we started clearing, weeding and digging.

There were a couple of problems with that plot, one being that there was no water on the site and the other was the site itself, it was so small, only six plots, so it was very quiet. There was never anyone around when we were there and after witnessing a small incident, I just didn't feel safe being there on my own.

A couple of years ago I was offered a plot on a new site. It was a fabulous plot having a shed and lots of soft fruit planted, we jumped at it.

Unfortunately, since then, we just haven't been able to give it as much attention as we'd like. This last year particularly, it got out of hand as we just don't have the time any more to devote to it. We'd pondered the idea of giving it up last year but decided to carry on but in November when the bill for another year dropped through the letterbox, we knew that it was time.

Our circumstances have changed in the seven years that we've had a plot, though my enthusiasm for gardening hasn't so I'll continue to grow my own but on a smaller scale in my own garden. I shan't be digging up the lawn just yet, I shall go back to the way I used to grow veggies before I got an allotment, in containers, but eventually I would like some raised beds.

This blog was started to follow my adventures on my allotment but now I no longer have a plot and time is at a premium, I'm going to stop posting here. As many of you know, I do have another blog, Through The Keyhole, which I will continue with and I shall slot in some posts about my garden plot on there. Some of you already comment on that blog as well as this one but I do hope that those of you who don't will pop over and follow me over there.

I'd like to thank everyone who has followed my ramblings here over the years, I've made some very good friends and it's been a pleasure getting to know you all through your blogs. Thank you for all the comments you've left, every single one has been very much appreciated.

Wishing you all a wonderful new year and wishing you all the very best for the 2016 growing season.

Monday 28 December 2015

Photo Medley - December

We're not only coming to the end of another month but the end of another year. I don't know where the time has gone. Without further ado, here's some more photos which haven't yet made it on to the blog.

I haven't really been out and about with my camera this month so just a few more photos from Harlow Carr and Golden Acre Park Trial And Display Garden, both of which we visited earlier this month.

There wasn't much colour left at Harlow Carr when we visited.

There were plenty of seasonal decorations cheering the place up though.

We managed to find a few flowers still hanging on and their splashes of colour really stood out.

The blackbirds were feasting on the dropped crab apples.

I'm sure the teasels will be attracting the goldfinches, though we didn't see any.

The plant centre was full of Christmas decorations for sale. I thought these wreaths were really pretty.

The knot garden at Golden Acre Park Trial and Display Garden had been planted up with primulas, they'll add some much welcome colour once they flower.

Honesty seed heads. I can never resist taking photos of these papery decorations.

We popped in to the greenhouse in the Blenheim Courtyard which houses a tropical display. The fish in the pond are always very active.

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas. We've still got Daniel and his girlfriend staying. They were supposed to be going back to uni in York either tomorrow or Wednesday as they've got exams starting next Monday but the areas where each of their houses are situated are under threat of flood. There's another storm on the way which won't help matters so we're just keeping our fingers crossed that we've seen the worst of it and that the forecasted storm doesn't bring more devastation. My heart goes out to those who have been affected all around the country.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Colour In December

In 2013, I followed the late Geoff Hamilton's advice, visiting a nursery or garden centre each month of the year and purchasing a plant which was in flower. Doing this should now ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

I chose a hellebore for my December plant and picked up a small specimen from Leeds market for the princely sum of £2.45. It didn't increase in size much last year but just look at it now.

These photos were taken as the very beginning of the month when it was still in bud.

There were lots of buds at the base of the plant.

I don't know much about hellebores so I'm not sure which variety this is but it's lived up to the name on its label of Christmas Rose as it's flowered in time for the big day.

I definitely think this plant is one of my best buys, for such a small outlay it's done so well and certainly brightens up the border at the end of the year.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Golden Acre Park Trial And Display Garden In December

We visited the gardens in Golden Acre Park in June last year. I was very impressed by this former trial site for Gardening Which? when we visited last time so I was looking forward to this visit very much. You can read about my last visit in my Garden Visiting In June - Part One post. The garden was full to bursting in June so I wondered how it would look in December. To say it was a huge disappointment would be an understatement.

Just about every part of the garden looked to have been deserted, it had an almost eerie feel to it as though it was a lost garden long forgotten about. So different from the busy, working garden of summer.

The vegetable beds contained long dead plants which haven't yet been cleared away.

The sweetcorn was still standing, though dried out and unharvested.

The chard was still alive, just, but growing in a tangle of weeds.

Grasses filled most of this border, they were blowing in the breeze, though amongst them were more dead plants.

It was hard to imagine how productive this garden was in summer, I would urge you to look at the earlier post and compare it to how it all looks in these photos, the difference is unbelievable. I was glad to see some areas which were well tended though. The greenhouse was full of healthy looking pelargoniums and you can see the beds around it which are filled with newly planted primulas. I'm sure they'll look wonderful once they're all blooming.

Like my own pelargoniums, these ones were still flowering.

I remember this seating area from my previous visit, I love the green roof.

I was sad to read this notice which was hung on the gate. Some people will steal anything these days, absolutely disgusting.

After leaving the Trial and Display Garden, we had a look at the Limestone Rock Garden. This is the main outdoor display area for Golden Acre Park's large collection of alpines. There's not much going on here either at this time of year, its season runs from mid February until the beginning of June and again, you can see it at its best in my earlier post.

The dogwoods were putting on a fabulous display though.

I don't think I'll bother visiting these gardens during the winter months again but I can thoroughly recommend them during the summer months, and of course, the park itself is absolutely wonderful the whole year round.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Harlow Carr in December

I've visited RHS Harlow Carr every month this year and there's been lots of differences to be seen on each visit, however, there's been some huge changes since my last visit in November. The first thing which hit me was the lack of colour. Many plants have been hanging on this year due to the mild autumn but they're nowhere to be seen now, there's hardly any colour in the gardens, though many of the trees are evergreen so there's plenty of greenery still around.

I liked how there were plenty of seasonal decorations in the gardens.

You couldn't miss this mistletoe sculpture, it's huge. The stainless steel structure was made by sculptor Steve Blaylock. I wouldn't fancy kissing anyone underneath it in case it came crashing down on our heads.

The area around the stream looks very bare. One bank has been prepared for planting and the plants on the other side have all died back since our last visit.

I remember seeing the gunnera at the beginning of the year in a similar state as it's in now. It reminded me then of the film Gremlins when the new batch are cocoons waiting to hatch and it did again when I saw them here.

Many of you have admired the tea leaf teapot bin when I've shown it in earlier posts. It's quite full now and you can see all the leaves at the bottom of the bin starting to turn in to leaf mould.

They say that if there's an abundance of berries it's going to be a harsh winter. I don't think there's many berries about at all this year so I'm hoping that it's going to be very mild.

The Kitchen Garden is a totally different scene from that I saw last month, all the summer's growth has been cleared away and many of the beds are now empty. There's still some winter veg growing but there's a lot of bare earth to be seen.

This rhubarb plant has started in to growth already and one or two forcing pots are being used in the rhubarb bed.

The plants in the bed I've been following throughout the year have all been cut down to ground level. This is how I saw this bed at the beginning of the year, it's now come full circle and it will be a few months before anything starts to grow here again.

The crab apple trees are hanging on to their fruit. We paused and watched many blackbirds enjoying the bounty.

So that's a full year that I've been following the changes at Harlow Carr and it's been very enjoyable. I'm sure you can tell from my posts that there's always plenty of things to see here and lots of interest. I've decided not to renew my RHS membership next year, not because I don't think it's worth having, it most certainly is, but at the moment I'm quite short on time and I can't see me making full use of it. I've thoroughly enjoyed all my visits to Harlow Carr this year though.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

The Winter Greenhouse

My greenhouse is tiny, just 4ft x 6ft but I wouldn't be without it. When I bought it, I thought it would be ideal for growing my tomatoes in, however, I've discovered that tomatoes grow just as well on the patio, I think it may be due to the fact that the greenhouse isn't sited in the sunniest of positions. What the greenhouse is invaluable for though is growing plants which need a little extra protection or overwintering plants.

This is how my little greenhouse is looking at the moment, jam packed to the rafters with pots and containers. Some of the plants being given some protection at the moment would come through winter outdoors, however, their pots wouldn't so rather than move them in to a more durable container, it's easier to move them in to the greenhouse.

You may have caught sight of the auriculas which Cheryl from Take Time To Smell The Flowers..... sent me in the photo above. I wrote about them in A Wonderful Surprise post back in June. Unfortunately, since then one has died, however, in the meantime, she'd sent me another one, this time a red one and that one seems to be doing well.

Some plants are still flowering. The mild autumn coupled with a bit of protection has prevented the plants from having a rest and the pelargoniums and rudbeckia are blooming away. Lots of weeds are growing in the pots too, they all need a really good sort out. They should have had one before being moved to the greenhouse but it was a case of rushing to get them in there before the snow fell a couple of weeks ago, so that's a job which still needs attending to.

The greenhouse didn't escape unscathed in the gales last weekend, a couple of panels blew out and ended up in neighbour's gardens, it's a good job they're not glass. We managed to find all but one of them so there's a big gaping hole in the roof at the moment. Luckily, we've got a spare panel in the loft. Mick's been away to Poland on business but he's due back in the early hours of tomorrow morning so that will be his first job when he's got a free moment.

So, as you can see, my greenhouse may not be huge but it's extremely handy and I'm pleased to have it.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Ferment Your Vegetables

Apart from freezing things, making jam is the only other way I've preserved food so when I was asked if I'd like to review Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Fiefer and published by Fair Winds Press, I jumped at the chance.

The book is split up in to three sections. Part 1: Getting Started With Fermentation is an invaluable chapter for a newbie like me. It starts with the very basics of What Is Fermentation? through to The Safety Question, What to Expect When You're Fermenting and Troubleshooting and FAQs.

Part 2: Small-Batch Lactic Acid Fermentation covers recipes for pickles, kraut, kimchi, and more. I like how there's lots of tips given in the recipe notes and how the author makes the recipes more personal by sharing her own experiences throughout the book.

Part 3: Alternative Approaches To Vegetable Fermentation takes fermentation beyond what's been learned so far. This chapter deals with things such as Fermenting in Crocks, No-Salt-Added Ferments and Tsukemono, Sun Pickles, and Other Paths to Cultured Vegetables.

There's so many recipes in this book to try, anything from Pickled Peppers or Simple Salsa to things I've never heard of such as Nabak Kimchi or Mirepoix Kraut. It's a great guide for the beginner fermenter but I'm sure that some of the recipes would certainly appeal to those who are more experienced too.

There's some fabulous photography throughout the book, just look at the colours in this Pumpkin Spice Kimchi, it looks so appetising and inspires me to give it a go.

I've learnt that fermenting can be fun as well as providing tasty food. These are Sauerkraut Pickled Eggs, all different colours. A red kraut will turn the eggs purple and radish pickle brine will turn them pastel pink. I like the one with the marble effect in the bottom right hand corner.

To order Ferment Your Vegetables at the discounted price of £12.99 including p&p* (RRP: £15.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG388. 

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