flowers, Grow Your Own, Plants, Secret Garden, Vegetables

Mr Smith

As promised in my previous post, just a few hours ago, I grabbed the opportunity to get out into the garden and I’m pleased to say it was a productive afternoon and evening.

I had to dodge a few showers but I managed to plant out pea seedlings, as well as sowing new pea seeds.  I also sowed early carrots, lettuce and rocket under a fleece mini-tunnel (the only one of two which survived the recent high winds).  In the same bed there was one square space remaining so I constructed a makeshift obelisk from some branches foraged from the woods just behind us (fallen, not cut!) and sowed a few remaining sweet pea seeds beneath it, with the help of my smallest daughter, who loves to pick the flowers.


Pea seedlings

AND just before the light fell, I also filled in some space at the top of the potato bed with a few broccoli seeds – a bit of an experiment as I haven’t grown it before and, to be honest, we don’t eat much broccoli.  I reckon whether it’s successful or not, the chickens will benefit from these plants the most!

Phew – I got quite a lot done with the bit of time I had and am feeling quite satisfied that I’ve got a few seeds and seedlings into the earth today.

A word about my companion when I am sowing or growing vegetables – Mr Smith.  After we moved in here and I acquired the raised beds in the Secret Garden, my Dad bestowed upon me his copy of ‘Mr Smith’s Vegetable Garden’.

My Dad has been using this book since he began growing his own vegetables many years ago and swears by it as a very simple, straightforward guide to how to grow most veggies in your garden or allotment.  For each vegetable, Mr Smith lists the basic guidelines for How to Grow, possible Pests and Diseases and Storage and Kitchen Hints, plus a few simple line drawings for a bit of illustration.  I have just checked the front cover and the book was first published in 1976 (as well as a reprint in 1977 – the year I was born!) and the advice and guidance in it is as relevant now as it was then.  The book looks old-fashioned, but then I have a weak spot for ‘vintage’ gardening books – something I will definitely share in a future post…

Clearly Dad thought I could find the book as useful as he did as a reference point – and I do. Every year at this time I know I will bring out the book to check guidance for sowing my veg.  I don’t know who Mr Smith was – the Monty Don of his day perhaps – but he’s an excellent guide and adviser when it comes to growing your own vegetables.

Secret Garden, Vegetables

What a load of crap…



I have recently acquired a fairly large quantity of horse manure, via the Head Gardener (aka Dad) whose village, apparently, has a Dung Day, when local farmers will pitch up with bags of fertilizer which you can buy at a very reasonable price.  Et voila – horse manure for my raised beds!

It’s a little bit of last-minute enrichment for the soil here, which I think could do with some help.  Last year’s crops were mostly poor and while the weather probably had some part to play, I think the beds have probably been dormant for a while prior to us moving in and the soil may be lacking in nutrients.  So I’m hopeful that chucking in a sizeable amount of poo – both horse and chicken – will help them on their way to becoming fertile containers of lush vegetables, fruit and flowers.

As well as digging some of the manure into a currently vacant bed, I also planted my potatoes – ten earlies (Duke of York) have gone into the top bed.  These beds are really big (I didn’t make them, I’m just the lucky soul who’s managed to inherit them from the previous owners!) so there’s still a bit of room in it for something else – I think I’ll probably also add some peas or sweet peas in the space that’s left.

So – currently in the beds at the moment:

Bed 1 – potatoes (10 Duke of York)

Bed 2 – empty (+ cloche to warm soil)

Bed 3 – empty (+ cloche to warm soil)

Bed 4 – 2 x raspberry canes planted last year (Autumn Bliss)

Bed 5 – 2 x rhubarb (inherited and moved from a different part of the garden); 4 x young strawberry plants grown from the runners of a large old plant; 6 x raspberry canes (Tulameen and Glen Something) and the re-sprouting Tayberry plant which I thought I had previously removed

Bed 6 – empty (+ generous amount of horse dung)

The Easter holidays are imminent – I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for some good weather to warm the soil so I can start sowing a few more seeds and filling all those empty spaces.


The rhubarb is coming along – it’s already looking a bit healthier since its move to the bed.



flowers, Plants, Vegetables

Wee pea shoots

Great excitement – the first shoots are emerging from my peas!

IMG_7665 (2)

I reckon it really doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your hundredth time planting seeds and watching them grow – those first little nubs of green pushing their way through the soil always give you a little rush of excitement; a sense of satisfaction that you are officially Growing Something.  Nature and you are working together, you are a TEAM!

Nature and I are also working on some aubergines, peppers, sweet peas, lobelia – and as of today, some cosmos, zinnia and marigolds.

I may be running out of room in the greenhouse-utility room already…

Garden design, Secret Garden, Vegetables

10 minutes digging

Sometimes spending just 10 minutes in the garden can be just as satisfying as a whole day.

This afternoon I grabbed the opportunity to do some digging – I’m anxious to prepare the raised beds for the new growing season and had a few spare minutes, so grabbed a spade and fork and got to work in the late afternoon sun.

10 minutes was enough to dig over one raised bed, incorporating a trug-ful of homemade compost.  It’s the bed I’m using for fruit and rhubarb.  There are two crowns already pushing up a number of vivid pink stalks , four small strawberry plants I grew from the runners of a very old one which has since been composted, plus the resurrected shoots of a tayberry which I (mistakenly) pulled out last year. There are now six raspberry canes soaking in a bucket overnight, ready to join this bed as soon as I get the chance to plant them tomorrow.

Look how good this soil looks – ready to grow lots of great stuff!

strawberry plant in the foreground – rhubarb at the back!

And here’s a reminder of just what my raised beds look like at the beginning of the year…

A bit bare at the moment, but I have big plans for this area – lots of fruit, veg and flowers in the short-term and hopefully a potting shed, maybe a greenhouse in the future.  I call it the Secret Garden, because it’s hidden behind a door to the side of the main garden, and there’s so much potential in it, both for growing things and for creating a very special private allotment.  Watch this space.




We have potatoes!

Well, the beginnings of potatoes anyway – my lovely dad picked me up some seed potatoes when he was buying his own, so now I have 10 Duke of Yorks chatting in my utility room.

Why the utility room, you ask?  Well it’s a conservatory-style room leading out to the back garden and in lieu of a real greenhouse, which I don’t yet have, it’s got the right conditions (cool, sunny, warmth in spring/summer) and a bit of space for sowing and planting.  It’s typically the coldest room of the house, being unheated and with a plastic roof, but I love this little room as it holds the potential of vegetables and flowers and it makes me happy to stand inside it and look out at the garden.

You might also notice some small plants in the propagation behind the spuds in the photo – these are hydrangea cuttings I took in the autumn and are hanging in there nicely so far.

flowers, Plants, Vegetables

Sorting and planning

Is there any better way to spend a snowy Saturday morning than sorting out your seed packets?!

I spent a very satisfying hour this weekend disposing of the old packets, rediscovering ones which I had bought some time ago (I bought dozens out of season in Lidl for 15p each!!) and then planning my sowing/planting calendar for the next few months.  Having also cleaned out my utility room in the past few days, which also serves as my greenhouse, I am now ALL SET to start growing!


I am trying to keep it simple this year, and have plans to repeat my attempts to grow potatoes, carrots, onions and peas.  I’m also going to add some lettuce and rocket – mainly because these were some of the bargain 15p packets so if they don’t grow I won’t have lost anything!  I think these will be good to try under cover and I have a cloche which I bought in Aldi last year marked down at the end of the growing season (there’s a definite theme developing here…!) so I fancy trying it with the salad veg and maybe a few carrots.  Sowing some of these under cover also means I can start growing early, which is good because I’m itching to get started.

First things first, though, and I need some seed potatoes so I can start chitting them.  I hope to get my hands on some by the end of the week.  I’m also going to sow the first of my sweet pea seeds.  These are a must for me in the garden – they are so colourful, they flower abundantly and smell gorgeous.  I’m going to plant loads, everywhere!

flowers, Plants, Vegetables

2015…a summary

These pics display the best of the vegetable beds for 2015 – a poor show I’m afraid and I’m not sure if that’s more to do with my lack of expertise, the quality of the soil or the fact that this summer’s weather was frankly pretty rubbish.  Nearby fellow gardeners with a great deal more experience than I have reported that many of their own vegetable crops were also unusually bad so I’m hopeful that with a year’s worth of knowledge under my belt and a much sunnier, warmer spring/summer (fingers crossed) that 2016 will see a lot more growing in these veg beds and that they’ll look a great deal more green and fulsome.

It’s now January so I’m beginning to make a few plans about what will go in this year – for a start I think I will try to grow some more fruit.  Some Tayberry bushes left by the previous owner, which I thought I had removed (I didn’t know what they were at the time), seem to be growing back so I’m going to encourage them to return!  I’d like to have some more raspberries and on the veg front I will probably try again for some potatoes and maybe carrots.  I’m going to be less ambitious and plant more of a smaller number of vegetables, rather than a wide variety.  And I’m hoping I can pull some rhubarb this year – the plants grew ok but never looked particularly ripe and ready…

Another thing I would also like to repeat is planting a bed of flowers for cutting – this did well, although it looked very unruly a lot of the time!  But my daughters enjoyed picking the flowers and making up little bouquets and vases with different stems and I really loved seeing how quickly they grew, even if many of the flowers did take a long time to bloom (like I said, it was a cool summer!).


The snapdragons did quite well and the sweet peas were marvellous – these will definitely be back in 2016 I think.