Monthly Archives: May 2013

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The best tip I’ve learnt this year

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This is without doubt the best tip I have learnt this year and I want to share it with you…

I sow everything in my poly tunnel or on window ledges early in the year, as the soil in my allotment takes months and months to warm up. The only problem with starting all your seeds under glass etc. is ‘damping off’.

Damping off is caused by fungi in your soil/compost. It’s especially bad when your seeds are taking a while to germinate and causes a thin green or white mould to grow on the surface. It’s caused by too much watering, poor ventilation, thick sowings etc. the fungi that causes this are called Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia and Fusarium but we all know it by damping off.

If you have it on your soil/compost it will attack your seeds or seedlings and cause them to rot it will become smelly and basically ruin your hard work. But I have finally found the answer and it’s not expensive and works an absolute treat.

Powdered Cinnamon.

You can buy it from any super market and it’s as cheep as chips! All you do if you notice a layer of mould appearing is to sprinkle it on the surface of the soil and get on with your other jobs. It’s gone in a matter of days and does not damage your tiny crops. You can even dip the ends of your cuttings in it to ward off them getting infected too. It’s also high in potassium and calcium as well, so I will be sprinkling some around my tomatoes to give them a boost.

Cinnamon is an antiseptic for diseases related to bacteria and fungi, you can even use it on your feet if you have athletes foot! With the added bonus of leaving your greenhouse or in my case poly tunnel smelling like a wonderful bakery! I’ve read that the smell of cinnamon even boosts brain stimulation, which might just help me when I’m getting caught up with working out my crop rotation.

Here’s a picture of my daughters liquorice seedlings, she can get a little enthusiastic with the watering can and it was starting to mould over. A tiny sprinkling of cinnamon and in a couple of days all will be fine!

It works brilliantly and smells superb! Honestly try it…

Happy Gardening x

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Carrots

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I’ve have my allotment now for about 8 years and I love the challenge of growing vegetables. Each year I like to find something new I haven’t tried and each year I try to grow a blimming decent carrot.

I’ve been getting better each year, but as yet I haven’t been able to grow one of those magnificent carrots you can buy at market. Mine grow into what I would describe as ‘rather rude looking’ and maybe even ‘obscene’.

Here’s what I have learnt over the years.

Carrots love a bit of sun, they hate stones, they adore free draining soil they loathe carrot fly.

Lets start with your soil, if you have heavy soil filled with stones, your carrots will turn into my type of carrot ‘the rather rude’ looking ones. I won’t go into to much detail except to say they fork off into all directions and end up looking like little orange naked men. Need I say more? Whilst it makes for a few giggles down on the plot it’s still pretty disappointing. So if your growing them in the earth make sure you remove any stones.

They also love a bit of wood ash from the fire too, so sprinkle some over them every couple of weeks and water it in, it’s also said to deter pests too.

A little tip I read is to mulch the carrot bed with grass cuttings. For two reasons. Firstly it keeps the tops of the carrot in the dark, this avoids that green head near the foliage. And confuses the carrot fly…

Now here is my biggest foe, the carrot fly. Where do I start? The carrot fly can smell the crushed smell of carrot foliage from about half a mile away! This is what I’ve read, and to be honest I can believe it too!

The female lays her eggs in the soil around the carrots and the babies wiggle into the roots of your little carrot and they begin to munch away.

Often you have no idea they have caused any problems until you pull up what looks to be a huge brilliant looking carrot only to find it riddled with brown holes, it’s gutting.

So how can we stop them?

First of all rotate your crops! They lay their eggs in the soil, so lets keep one step ahead of them.

Secondly if your going to thin out your carrots do it on a still dry evening and that’s the same for pulling them up for dinner!

Thirdly the carrot fly seems to rather rubbish at flying, this could be our only hope! So plant them higher than 18 inches from floor level.

You could also think about covering your crop with some very very fine mesh. But put it over a frame! You don’t want the mesh bashing away at the leaves giving off the scent to tempt them to your door!

They also say surround your crop with onions and garlic. The smells can also distract the fly too!

So there you have it., everything I have learnt about the humble carrot over the 8 years of trying to grow a decent one!

So this year. I’m growing them in a tub that’s 1/2 meter from ground level, I transplanted them into place on a dry and still evening, the soil has been sieved, I’ve have surrounded each carrot with 3 bulbs of garlic, tomorrow I will sprinkle them with wood ash and water it in and the whole thing will be covered with mesh and when I next mow the lawn I will mulch the tub.

Surely this year, I can get a blimming decent carrot!

Happy gardening! X

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Black mint

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Here is a little picture of my black mint next to oregano. The lush green is beautiful don’t you think? And I love the black stalks so pretty.

Black mint will spread out and take over, like all mint, it’s a bit of a thug. So I have learnt my lesson from my peppermint which attempted to take over one of my herb beds last year so I will be keeping my mints in pots then sinking it into the soil. Eventually you won’t see the pot as the foliage grows up and over the edges.

Black mint is a seriously minty mint. It will blow you head off. It’s brilliant, I cannot wait for rum cocktails with a huge sprig plunged in amongst the crushed ice.

Black mint also makes wonderful tea. It dries beautifully to and retains its minty taste. They say if you are feeling a bit sick its good for steadying your tummy too. It’s well worth getting a pot for your herb garden and come the summer it has tiny little pink flowers which are adorable.

Mint is also good for getting rid of ants. They say if you make a tea of it and spray it around your door frames and problem areas the ants will move on away from it. I am going to try that this year, I have noticed a few ant nests around my plot. I’m not too keen on using ant powder as I have a dog, whom I love dearly and don’t want to harm him. Got to look after Wordsworth the dog he’s my pal and he will eat anything he can get his paws on.

Black mint loves rich moist soil, but like I say it will totally take over if you let it. It sends out long roots underground which spring up all over the place!

Happy gardening x

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Old grid turned into a little planter

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Recently we put a conservatory onto our house and had to move the old drains. It was hard work but it’s beautiful now, my husband is the greatest!

Anyway when my hubby dug up the old grid I fell in love with it! Obviously he thought I was bonkers, but hey it’s all about recycling these days. I adore finding little things and repurposing them. So off I went, bonkers old me to make a little planter for some Hens and chicks.

Hen and chicks or Sempervivum
Sempervivum literally means “live forever”. I have a wall basket on the front of my house bulging with them and because they grow and propagate so readily they don’t half spread out. But they are super easy to have around the garden. Useful for the front garden as I don’t really hang out in it too much.

These succulents are known by many different names (semps, hens and chicks, houseleeks) Top names for a very very easy to grow plant. They do like lots of drainage so I mixed loads of grit into the soil in fact it was probably 75% grit.

I covered the hole in the grid with an old piece of plastic lid and punctured lots of holes for more drainage and filled it up.

Then pushed the little succulents into their gritty planter. And finished it off with some more grit. My 6 year old daughter decided she was going to decorate it and collected all sorts shells and bits and bobs to finish it off for me.

Before you know it that whole planter/grid will be covered, isn’t nature rather wonderful?

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Broad beans and the evil weevil

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I planted my broad beans a couple of weeks ago. And they have already started to flower! The bees have been darting around them weaving their magic.

But something I have noticed is the sides of the leaves have those notches I told you about. This is a sign the pea weevil is about.

It happens every year, I’m not too worried. They don’t tend to kill a plant off, if it was in trouble it wouldn’t be flowering so beautifully.

Before you know it there will be huge pods bulging with wonderful broadbeans, I cannot wait!

Just sat here wondering what to have them with first, maybe a nice poached salmon on a bed of steamed kale smothered with broad beans in a garlic butter sauce…

Happy Gardening. X

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Pine needle barrier against the dreaded slugs

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Here is a picture of my lettuce bed. This year I’m doing a little experiment with it.

The lettuce are called winter destiny and are lovely lettuces. So lovely that the slugs and snails flock from all around to scoff them! So heres the experiment.

I have a wall of pine needles around the bed see if it will work as a barrier to those pesky slime makers. The snails and slugs hate sharp things and will bog off if they cannot through. So I wonder if my pine needle wall will keep them away, time will tell.

I will let you know. Fingers crossed!

Happy Gardening x.

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Find room in your veg plot for flowers

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I always feel sorry during early spring for the bees. They must have a rough old ride waiting for the flowers to pop out with their pollen. They must get so terribly bored of dandelions.

Desperately buzzing about looking for pollen, it must be tricky for the little fellas!

It must be like nipping down to the work canteen only to find there is nothing there except an old packet of crisps.

It’s so important to get some flowers bunged into your plot. Walk down most streets in the UK and front gardens are mostly flags or pebbles with a sad lonely looking Cordyline wind blasted in the middle of this baron so called ‘garden’. The problem is where do our little fury bees go for lunch? So off they fly somewhere else hoping to find a little flower.

If you plant flowers they will come. They will come to your plot and do their magic. They will pollinate your crops and help you, as much as you help them. And they really do need your help.

This year I have made a little promise to my little pals. I will fill every nook and cranny with flowers. Veg for my family and flowers for my friendly visitors. Just think how wonderful your plot will look bulging with vegetables and filled with all colours of the rainbow.

So come the summer, you can sit amongst the marrows and cabbages surrounded the heady scent of your flowers, a handful of the greenest and best peas you’ll ever taste and the wonderful buzz of your fury friends spreading their magic all around you. Maybe throw in a G&T and a huge helping of self satisfaction too for good measure too!

Happy Gardening.