Tag Archives: Gardening

Raspberries, raspberries, raspberries.

I LOVE them.

allotment raspberries

The smell, the taste (especially the taste), how they grow, the variety you can have, their long season… I love it all!  In fact, there was one occasion my mother in law gave me a supermarket plastic bag filled with them.  On my 30 minute drive home, I managed to eat all the raspberries in that bag.  I looked like a small child with them smeared all over my face when I got back to my house!  Ooooh but the tasted so nice.  Sure, the little seeds that get in your teeth can be a little bit annoying, but I’ll cope with them.


I know I have written about raspberries before.  I remember being shocked at how powerful they are, so I won’t repeat myself.  Have a search through the blogs and see what you can find.

backgarden raspberries

In other news, I am considering how much of our fruit and vegetable requirements we can actually grow ourselves. I love using produce from the garden to use in our meals, and if it is literally outside the back door, all the better.  We have four raised beds, as well as a little plot we have ear marked for being our vegetable plot.  I reckon we could grow carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, peas and beans.  We might be able to get some potatoes in the growing bags, and maybe some parsnips as well.  I would love to grow some courgettes (zucchini for my North American readers) and maybe a squash or a pumpkin.    Not sure there would be enough room to do all that though.  Might need some careful planning and clever use of space.  As well as all of that, there is also the chance of using the allotment.


I am not sure if my readers in North America know what an allotment is, but basically, it is land held by the local government authorities which is given over for people to rent small parcels of it and grow their own fruit and vegetables on it.  My husband and I got one about 10 years ago, and after we cleared it and grew stuff on it, we sort of sub let it to my Father in Law.  He has done amazing things with it, and it is very productive.  After going up there and picking the raspberries and some strawberries (and having huge fun doing it) I am rather wondering if I should suggest we take responsibility back from him for its upkeep.  I am happy to share the produce with both my in laws and my Mum when she moves up here (very soon, hopefully).


Do any of you grown your own?  What do you like to grow particularly?  And what is very successful in your plot?


My extremely productive gardening weekend…

I went into this weekend with a list as long my arm of the jobs I wanted to achieve in the garden.  You know by now that I love my lists.  This one was entirely in my head, and I am here to report, between us, my husband and I totally BLITZED it.  Everything on that list, and a few jobs besides, have been done.


It took a long time.  Both of us must have been in the garden for nearly 7 hours.  14 man hours later though, the place has been transformed.  We have weeded and trimmed back the herb bed, and replanted it with various new specimens with plans for additional ones.  We have weeded the bed that runs from the herb bed down to the big greenhouse.  We have planted all the plants which had been languishing slightly in our little greenhouse.  We have cleared the patch of garden which eventually will be transformed into our vegetable patch.  We have also finished the initial weeding of the long perennial border as well.  And we gave the Broom a big old haircut (because it has finished flowering and had been getting in my way when I was cutting the lawn!)


So, the herbs we have now in our garden are Lemon Verbena, Sage, Thyme, and French Tarragon.  This is in addition to the Rosemary, Oregano, Chives and Lavender which were already there.  I am going to get some mint (and put it in a separate pot) and parsley, Basil and Coriander and plant them too.  Plus, I found that I have seeds for Lovage, Borage, and Bergamot as well as Fennel and Dill.

old herbal

Just with those herbs, my mind is filled with potential remedies.  In my minds eye, I have a recipe for a tonic using rosemary, tarragon and red wine.  When the Lovage, Borage and Bergamot come up, I am going to make some sleep pillows with lavender along with the potential colourful addition to a jug of Pimms in the summer weather of the Borage flowers.    Then I have the chance for mint tea from the mint plants once they are established, and making homemade pesto from the Basil.  I might also use the Coriander to make a version of pesto with a slightly lighter and brighter flavour (though my husband will complain it tastes of soap)

smelling flowers

I am so pleased with the work we have done, I think today I am just going to sit back and admire it.  Actually, if I tried to garden today I am pretty sure all my joints would stop working entirely, so it is probably just as well that I take some time to smell the flowers.  After all, there is little point in working hard to make the blooms come to life if you are not going to stop and admire them once in a while.


The new plan…

I am a person who is motivated by plans.  I need to have one to make sure I am working smarter as well as sometimes harder.  I have more energy when I have clear goal, and if I can get something down on paper that I can look at and measure progress again, well, I am in clover.  (Sometimes, I also worry about myself and whether I really need to get out more!)


I have noticed in the last couple of months that my direction has somewhat drifted.  This is not really surprising given the fact I was moving house and settling in and all that, but I noticed last week that I had a distinct lack of motivation to write the blog everyday.  I also noticed that my Herbalism studies have REALLY backslided.  Although there is an excuse, if I want my new life to happen, I need to take myself in hand and get on with it again.  So, it got me thinking.  How on earth am I going to fit this in to the life I am leading now in the big house, with the big garden and the prospect of children thrown into the mix as well?


Well, the obvious answer is that I need to make time for everything I want to do.  So, cue a piece of paper and a pen, and a list of my priorities.  This blog is definitely on this list, because I thoroughly enjoy writing it, and it keeps my literary muscles flexing.  It is a good habit to have.  But it does take quite some time to get the idea, write the blog, edit the blog, edit it again, find the pictures, put it all together and publish.  And frankly, I could use that time for my other priorities.


And here we come to the crux of the matter.  What I intend to do therefore is to reduce the number of times in a week that I blog.  I am going to aim to blog three times in a week.  Ideally, that would be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but it needs to be flexible, so I might sneak one in on a weekend if the other days get a bit packed with things to do (like adoption meetings, Mum and baby groups, cleaning, studying, gardening etc).  My plan is also to have a kind of theme to each time I blog.  So, Mondays I envisage being about Herbalism/Gardening/Nutrition, Wednesdays will be about Life Coaching and Personal Management and Fridays can be stuff about studying and any micro-business stuff I might want to blog about.


I would really love to have your feedback about this new structure.  Lets let it bed in for a couple of weeks, and if you think there can be some tinkering around the edges, I would love to hear your ideas.


Now… I am off to hang out wet washing and then do some weeding in the garden.  I have to… it’s on my plan!


Going Green can be fun!

Did you know that Tuesday was Earth Day?  I know… it kind of escaped me too.  However, searching around for some inspiration for a blog this morning, I noticed that one of my favourite websites (www.treehugger.com) had an article about how Going Green could be fun.  It was a big change from some of the earnest “we must immediately eat granola and wear birkenstocks and hair shirts to save the world” sort of articles, and it has a great message.  The original article looked at 9 different ways that Going Green can be fun.  I have picked out 5 of them.

Earth day

The first is a little unusual – Insulating the house.  Oh yeah… serious fun.  (Please don’t call the men in white coats to take me away, bear with me…) It might seem a little dull, but you know what is fun?  Reducing your energy bills and having more money left over at the end of the month for those little luxuries or a day out or something.  I will take that kind of fun!


The article also talked about how choosing green transport options can also be fun.  Biking and walking help us to stay healthier and extend lifespans.  Of course, that also depends on the other road users, and around where I live, I am not sure that would necessarily work out – cyclists are kind of used as target practice for some car drivers – but I understand what he is saying.  Let’s face it, it feels great to use your bike, or to walk the dog in the countryside (on a lead please – no worrying sheep or other wildlife).  Puts a great big smile on your face.


The other transport choice is of course, letting the train take the strain.  I had to smirk at this one.  Obviously, the guy writing the original article lives in North America.   Sure, trains here are okay… there are lots to choose from and you can get pretty much anywhere on them in the UK.  There are the benefits that someone else is doing the driving, and you have extra time to read, knit, work, day dream, sleep.  But that is assuming that you can get a seat or that the train is running on time or at all!


If you are attempting to green your lifestyle, then often there is something of a dietary change involved.  People decide to become vegetarian or vegan, or at the very least reduce the intake of meat, for animal welfare reasons if not dietary ones.  Well, increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables is never going to be a bad thing is it?  Vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, natural sugars, great tasting, versatile, interesting meals.  You just can’t beat it.  And growing them takes up less resources than raising meat in decent welfare standards.  (Incidentally, I am not going vegetarian anytime soon because I am a rapacious carnivore.  Though I do agree with better standards for Animal welfare)


And finally… my favourite thing.  Going green to me means getting into the garden.  For me, gardening is incredibly smile inducing (sometimes wince inducing as well if I over do it and stretch my muscles a bit too much!), it is great exercise, fewer food miles, fewer fertilizers and poisons on the vegetables if you choose to grow organically and is an immensely satisfying hobby.


So, have fun going Green!  It is not all about sacrifice.  It can make our life better and more enjoyable as well!

Extreme garden revamp required…

One of the odd things we have discovered about the adoption process is how obsessed they are with child safety.  Please do not get me wrong, I am not an advocate of having saws and sharp knives littered around the house for children to run into and fall on, and nor am I going to get the children to run full tilt into table corners and such like.  However… I was slightly alarmed to hear the Social worker tell me that he will have to do a garden survey before we are approved for having children.  I am unlikely to allow a child to wander in the garden and scoff the border plants, but again, whatever hoop we need to hop through, we will hop through.


It got me thinking.  What plants do I know we have in the garden which will be poisonous to a potential adoptee?  Cue some judicious research online.  And yet more things added to the to do list.  Holy Moses.  There are a lot of potentially poisonous plants and I am going to have to take them out of the new garden and either give them away or get rid of them.


Wisteria, that lovely climber that scrambles up pergolas and house fronts all over the place, is apparently one plant that will have to go.  It is also known as the Kidney Bean Tree and all parts of it are toxic.  Luckily, we do not need to get rid of any as we don’t have one.


Unfortunately, we do have a lot of foxgloves.  My Mother in Law likes to nurture those plants which have self seeded in the borders and basically, we have something of a foxglove plantation.  I think I will be digging them up and offering them to my Mum in Law for her new garden which is basically a lovely shady coppice, where Foxgloves will THRIVE.  The Foxglove is very, very poisonous, and although it is a source of the heart drug Digitalis, it is deadly if eaten.  Bye bye lovely cottage garden plant.  We will see you from afar instead of in our garden.


Hydrangeas are also poisonous.  I have never had much success with hydrangeas in my garden at the moment, but I have one in the new herbaceous border, so I need to yank it out as well.  Apparently, to an imaginative mind, the balls of flowers can look like candy floss and if eaten, then it could cause vomiting, weakness and excessive sweating.  Again, I think I will be offering it for the coppice or a big planter.  Such  shame.  I would have liked to try to grow one.

lily of the valley

According to our social worker, lily of the valley is one of the worst to have in the garden.  They cause nausea, vomiting, mouth pain, stomach pain, diarrhea and cramps.  It can also slow your heartbeat or make it irregular.  Spring colour and interest, perhaps, but away they go.  I know we have a lot of them in the front garden, so I shall have to make a point of marking them out and removing them.


One plant that is causing me anxiety is the Weeping fig or ficus.  I know we have a proper fig which grows in front of the kitchen window, jutting out of the patio.  I hope we don’t have to get rid of it.  It is a gorgeous plant, and I love to eat figs.  Maybe we can convince the social worker that we can keep it?


Anyone else know of any poisonous plants I need to remove from the garden?  I would like to present a poison free haven for our prospective child (and possibly impress the social worker!)


Make your own Hand scrub for those Gardeners Hands

Gardening, gardening, gardening.  I love it.  It means I am never bored, and always have something to do.  But it also means that I have some very filthy hands at the end of a day weeding and planting in the borders.  So, here is a recipe for making some of your own.  It could not be easier.

gardening quote

So, take a jar of your choice and fill it up 3/4 full with sugar.  Then fill the next quarter of the jar with dish washing detergent of your choice.  You can use any sort for greasy dishes.   Stir it all up and add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.  Any essential oil that is antibacterial and antiseptic would be good.  You could use lemon oil, tea tree oil or lavender oil.  There should be a thick paste, and it will be incredibly useful.


Actually, it would make a great gift for a gardener in your family.  That, and may be a liniment for their sore joints!

garden quote 2

Planning a garden

Spring is springing.  Finally.  Although we in the UK have been saved from the onslaught of the polar vortex, we have had masses of rain and I for one can’t wait to get out into the garden to get it looking smart.  As we will be working with a new garden in the near future, I wanted to see if there was any advice out there for what to do when you don’t have a clean piece of paper or a clean bit of land but will be working with something that has already had attempts made on it.


I have done a blog post about planning a herb garden, and some of those ideas still stand.  But today I want to write about the wider garden.  How do we go about working out the best way for things to be?


First of all, you need to know where the sun falls and when that sun is in the garden.  You also need to know the direction each of the borders faces and probably most importantly, what is the soil type.  No point setting your heart on growing rhododendrons if you haven’t got ericaceous  soil, because the plants will just get sick and die.  That is not a nice thing to watch happen.


What do you actually want the garden for?  For me and my family, the garden is an extension of the house.  We love relaxing out there, entertaining, barbecuing as well.  We also need the garden to work as a play space for children (and the dog!) and it has to be a productive growing space – herbs, veggies and flowers for the vase.

cottage garden

You also need to think about privacy.   If you have a habit of sunbathing in the altogether, then presumably you need some privacy.  This is soooo far outside of my personal experience, I think I will leave it there.  I don’t like being able to see the whites of my neighbours eyes at the same time as I am weeding the borders.  I am a big fan of 6 foot fences.  And hedges.  Hedges are great!  A bit of hard work to keep in good nick, but fabulous fun.


Another thing to consider is an outside tap.  If you are going to water your plants in the border, you need access to some source of water.  At my present abode we ferry watering cans from the kitchen at the front of the house, through the living room and out to the back garden.  In our soon to be home, there is an outside tap.  You have no idea the levels of excitement at the thought of buying a hose.  No, really.  It is exciting.  It is.

swings and slides

Of course there are other practicalities to think about.  If you have children, is there somewhere for them play around?  Are the plants in the ground safe for your pets?  For example, if your garden has an amazing show of tree lilies, and you have cats, then the lilies have to go.  The pollen is very dangerous, deadly in fact, to cats.  You also need to consider the amount of storage you will need.


Next, you need to know what it already there in the garden.  There is some merit in waiting for a year before you start to change things and add your own touch to the new garden.  At this point, you need to think colour scheme as well.   I like colour in my garden.  As in “Oh goodness, turn the contrast down my eyes hurt” kind of colour.  Mwahahahaha!  I can hardly wait!!