Sunday 28 September 2014

Mini Munch Giveaway

I grew Mini Munch cucumbers for the first time last year and was so impressed by them that I grew them again this year.

Mini Munch, as the name would suggest, are small, mini cucumbers which are both delicious and prolific. I grew one plant in the greenhouse and one outdoors this year and didn't notice any difference between the two, so they're adaptable.

Last year, I offered two packets of seed as a giveaway to give a couple of my readers a chance to try them for themselves. Sue from Our Plot At Green Lane Allotments was one of the winners and I know she'll be growing them again next year as she too was impressed by them.

When I visisted the garden centre and picked up some bargain seed at the end of August, I also picked up an extra couple of packets of Mini Munch seed so that I could do another giveaway. These seeds are supposed to retail at £3.99 for a packet of four seeds. I always find cucumber seed expensive so the 50p seed sale is great for seeds such as these.

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning one of these packets of Mini Munch seed to try, just leave a comment on this post by twelve noon on Monday the 6th of October 2014 after which, two names will be drawn at random.

As you might guess, I'll be growing this variety of cucumber again next year. It's become a firm favourite in our house.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Garden Visiting In September

I've visited some lovely gardens this year and been really surprised by some of them, I've found some hidden gems. Unfortunately, the garden I visited this month was a bit of a disappointment.

I'd read about Thornes Park in Wakefield on the internet. Supposedly featuring a beautiful walled rose garden, conservatory and secret garden, it sounded perfect for a visit.

As we walked through the gate we could see the walled garden and conservatory ahead of us.

The borders to the side were well kept and well stocked.

Such a gorgeous house.

The flower garden outside the walled garden was beautiful. We had high hopes for what lie beyond those gates.

I was expecting to see an abundance of roses in this walled garden but as I entered, my heart sank. It all looked rather barren and bare.

I wondered if it was a little late in the year to see roses at their best, but as I looked further, this is what I found.

The sign is asking for sponsors, either for a rose or a whole rose bed.

I do hope they get some takers as this could be a beautiful garden. It's such a shame when old, walled gardens are allowed to fall in to disrepair. The garden already has a backbone, plants trained against the wonderful brick wall, it just needs some tlc to bring it back to life again.

How about this fabulous arbour?

It would look stunning covered in blooms.

It was nice to see some roses flowering, especially my favourite colour, yellow.

Some of the beds were filled, but not especially looked after.

Never mind, I thought, there's still the conservatory to see. I'd read that it holds plant collections from three distinct regions of the world, Temperate and Tropical, Rainforest and Desert.

Unfortunately, we couldn't get anywhere near. These signs were posted along the barriers barring our entrance. It's no longer safe to enter the conservatory due to structural problems with the roof.

Looking from the conservatory back towards the entrance you can see how lovely this garden could be.

Some work has definitely been done already, it just needs a little more. It seems as though the work has started but has been held up due to lack of funds, such a shame.

Some leeks have been planted along the far wall but weeds are creeping in amongst them.

There's been an attempt to fill a border along the far wall with a combination of plants. I'm sure this will look better once the plants have had time to fill out a little.

The bees and butterflies were enjoying the blooms of the verbena bonariensis.

Looking back as we were leaving the garden, you can see how beautiful it could look with full, flowering beds.

More effort has been put in outside the walled garden and it shows. Look how beautiful this border is.

The flower garden has certainly has more work put in to it than the walled garden.

With thoughts of the Frances Hodgson Burnett book I read as a child, we headed off to seek out the Secret Garden. Another disappointment.

Even the nursery to the side of the park was closed, which was a shame, as I could see some lovely plants for sale.

This garden and conservatory could be a gem but I suppose it's decline is down to funding.

I wouldn't say that this month's garden visit was all that successful, let's hope for better luck in October.

Thursday 18 September 2014

A Seedy Post

These packets of vegetable seeds are what I've got left over from the last few years.

Some of the packets haven't been opened, some of the packets are only half full, some are in date, some are out of date, some are varieties which I grow every year and some are varieties which I've tried and won't bother growing again. They all need sorting out, but most of them will be passed on to people who can use them.

With all those seeds in hand, why do I find it necessary to visit Poppleton Garden Centre, part of The Garden Centre Group, each year when they reduce their seeds to 50p per packet? To be fair, there were some seeds I definitely needed as I'd run out of them, and I wanted to pick up some more of the living rabbit food which I grew this year for my bunnies as it was very popular with them, but I still managed to come away with twenty three packets of seeds, which cost me £11.50. If I'd paid full price for the seeds, they would have cost £67.15 so I made a saving of £55.65. They didn't have the tomatoes I wanted so I've still got them to buy, but I got most other things.

When you consider how much veg costs these days, £11.50 is a small price to pay for the seeds to grow my own, and it's always tastier than what you can buy in a supermarket.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Life's A Peach

Just about all of the peaches on my little peach tree split after the heavy rain we had a while ago, there were just two survivors.

I'd been looking forward to trying these all summer and the time finally came last week. They felt much softer than they had done and the fruit came away from the tree very easily.

This is what they looked like inside. Unfortunately, they were still rather hard and not at all juicy, but they did taste very peachy.

I'm hoping that I can do better next year. The tree is very small so I think I may keep it inside the greenhouse right through the year, this should avoid it having to cope with any sudden rainfall, therefore avoiding stone fruit pit split and should also reduce the threat of peach leaf curl.

I'm happy that I got a couple of peaches to try this year, I just need to make sure that they're up to scratch in future.

Friday 12 September 2014

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal.

I'm pleased to announce that the name drawn out of the hat at random was Eleanor from Stitches and Seeds. Well done, Eleanor, I hope you enjoy the book. 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.

This was a very popular giveaway, there were lots of entrants, so if any of you fancy buying yourself a copy of this book, don't forget that the publishing company are offering it at the discounted price of £11.99 including p&p. Please look at Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal post for details.

Monday 8 September 2014

My Latest Harvest

Not a bad haul, spuds, tomatoes, three varieties of beans, squash  and courgettes. I missed off the yellow raspberries which also came home from the plot.

I've grown potatoes both in containers and at the allotment this year. The ones here are from the plot, they're much dirtier when dug up than container grown ones. I stopped growing potatoes in the ground when we had our last plot as they attracted so much slug damage, but the one's I've grown this year on the new plot have been brilliant, I've only found one damaged potato so far. It means that I can cut down on the number of containers I plant up with potatoes as I'll be able to grow them in the ground from now on, though I'll still continue to plant a few in pots.

This is Custard White patty pan squash. There's absolutely loads growing on a monster plant so I think there'll be lots more to harvest on our next visit. These will be served with our roast chicken dinner tonight.

The courgettes are still producing a good amount. Stuffed courgette is a regular on the menu at the moment.

I picked this colander of tomatoes yesterday. I've now cut all the leaves off the tomato plants to allow the remaining green tomatoes to ripen.

Purple Cascade and Cobra climbing French beans and St George runner beans. I made a late sowing of beans as well as the ones which I planted out earlier in the season. These are still from the first sowing so I'm hoping that the weather stays fine for a good few weeks yet as there's absolutely loads still to come. My freezer is being well stocked up. Some of these beans will make it on to our plate tonight too.

The season isn't even nearly over yet, we're still bringing plenty of things home with us from the plot.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Thursday the 11th of September 2014 to do so. Just leave a comment on my Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal post.

Thursday 4 September 2014

A Success Of Sorts

I didn't expect much from my tomatoes after the bad start they had this year, but some of the plants have come good in the end.

My final tomato plant list for this year looked like this:-

Greenhouse Plants
Costoluto Fiorentino
Gardeners Delight
Alicante (bought from the local plant sale)

Outdoor Plants
Costoluto Fiorentino
Gardeners Delight
Ailsa Craig X 2

Outdoor Bush Plants
Maskotka X 2 (bought from the local plant sale)
Gartenperle (bought from the local plant sale)

There hasn't been much difference between the greenhouse grown plants and the outdoor plants this year, even though I've been trying the self watering containers I bought in the greenhouse, though this year probably isn't the best year to come to any conclusion over them because of the problems I encountered with the plants, so I shall watch closely again next year for any difference between the plants grown in them and the plants grown in ordinary grow bags.

There's been a huge difference in the plant varities this year though. The stars of the show were undoubtedly the two Maskotka plants which I bought from the local plant sale. I shall definitely grow these again next year but I'll have a go at growing them from seed this time. They got a thumbs up from my dad too, he's really been enjoying the ones I've taken for him.

Ildi has got to be the worst performer, not just because the plant didn't produce much fruit but also because I didn't like the taste of the tomatoes. They're the little orange ones in the photo above.

I didn't enjoy the Gartenperle tomatoes, they're the small, pinkish red tomatoes in the first photo. They had a very thick skin so I won't bother growing them again. I've already disposed of this plant.

Many of the Costoluto Fiorentino tomatoes split. I presume that was because we got so much rain after a dry spell, but they didn't go to waste, they can still be eaten.

Totem has been a star again. It's such a small plant and doesn't take up much space as it doesn't sprawl as some of the other bush varieties do, it gives a good yield and the tomatoes are larger than cherry tomatoes but slightly smaller than a salad tomato. It's got a good taste too. I grew this variety last year and was impressed with it then and it will be on my list of tomatoes to grow again next year.

The Gardener's Delight hasn't produced as large a crop as it usually does, but I'm putting that down to the problems I had with my plants at the start of the year. I'm not sure if it will be on my list again for next year now that I'll be growing Maskotka, which is another cherry variety.

Both the Alicante and Ailsa Craig have done ok in the end too.

I've had a large enough harvest to keep both our household and my mum and dad supplied throughout summer, as well as sending bags full back to York with Daniel when he's been home. He doesn't like tomatoes but his girlfriend does. There's still lots of fruit on the plants waiting to ripen too, so it hasn't turned out to be quite the disastrous tomato year that I thought it was going to be.

The tomatoes I've definitely decided on so far for next year are Maskotka and Totem. I think I need to do a bit of thinking about which others to add to the list.

I just want to mention my carrots. They don't warrant a post of their own as there wasn't many more than these few which I pulled a couple of weeks ago.

I never got round to sowing any in the ground, even though I did invest in some Enviromesh to keep the carrot root fly at bay, but some seed was sown in an old water tank which is on the plot, though germination wasn't very good. The carrots were very tasty though.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet entered my giveaway, you've got until twelve noon on Thursday the 11th of September 2014 to do so. Just leave a comment on my Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal post.

Monday 1 September 2014

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal

I was delighted when I was asked if I'd like to review Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal which has been published by Frances Lincoln, ( , @Frances_Lincoln ), and is due to be released on the 4th of September. I'm even more delighted that I'm able to give one of you the chance to win a copy for yourself and for those of you who aren't lucky enough to win, there's also a reader offer so that you can buy the book at a discounted price.

This book is a journal format of Sarah Raven's first ever book, The Cutting Garden, which was published nearly twenty years ago. The help and advice it contains is as relevant now as it was then. It's split in to months and each month is divided up in to various sections.

There are flowers suggested for each month and I like that as well as giving information on how best to grow each particular plant, certain varieties which are good for cutting are recommended.

Jobs are split up month by month so that you know what you should be getting on with, and there's space to jot down any notes you want to make.

I'm rubbish when it comes to flower arranging so the project of the month section is great for me. It tells you the equipment and plants you'll need and also the method to get a stunning arrangement. These aren't just vase displays but also such things as a winter medallion or a corn sheaf, so something a little different too.

As you'd expect, the book contains lots of other useful and interesting information such as the planning of the garden, cultivating plants, growing shrubs, trees and year round foliage and growing in a mixed garden if you don't have room for a separate area to devote to cut flowers.

There's even advice on choosing the right vase. I can see how the look of an arrangement can change according to what it's placed in.

I think this is a great book if you're thinking of growing flowers for cutting. I shall be reading through it and making notes ready for the start of the next growing season.

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 a copy of Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal, just leave a comment on this post by twelve noon on Thursday the 11th of September 2014. A name will be drawn at random soon after. 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.

If you're not lucky enough to win, you could always treat yourself to a copy as the publishers are offering Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal at a discounted price.

To order Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal at the discounted price of £11.99 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG200. 

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