Monthly Archives: May 2010

Garden pics….

I thought l would just put a load of photos l have taken of the garden over the past few days. There just seems to be so much going on in out there at the moment, especially after the rain we had recently. I am looking forward to the coming weeks as the veg plot in June and July gives us so much. What is looking good in your garden right now?

Marmande tomato

First cucumber


A good crop of broad beans

ready to pod

a rogue radish from my compost!

Our wildflower meadow

The dome





Posted by on May 29, 2010 in May, The garden


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Please rain……

Mr Middleton says: Thin out surplus seedlings early, before the roots get tangled, or you may injure those left behind.


1. Thinning and Planting.- There will be much thinning out in May from sowings made in April. This operation is most important and should be done before the young plants get too crowded with their roots tangled together, and by their competition with each other weaken those which are left. Plant out crops from the seed bed and frames as necessary. If frost for the year seems to be over, some of the more tender crops, such as runner beans raised in frames, can be set out.

2. How is your plan working?- The garden should be getting nice and full, but there should still be room for a few later crops. To speak of the necessity for planting and sowing at different times is to emphasise the need for a plan. When no plan is being used it is fatally easy to put in a few extra rows of cabbage, cauliflowers, turnips, or whatever it is, and to leave no room for other essential crops.

3. Plant Out Lettuce.- Cos lettuce raised under glass may now be planted out. Allow 12 in. from plant to plant. Never allow lettuce seedlings to become crowded, as they grow soft and decay early. Some people like to use the thinnings as salads, but in so doing they rarely thin out the rows in good time and consequently those left fail to make good hearts.

4. Sow Maincrop Carrots and Beet.

5. More Sowing of Spinach.

6. Fertilize and Hoe.- A light sprinkling of general fertilizer may be given to crops now well established, particularly the earlier onions. Hoe frequently amongst the crops to work in the fertilizer and to keep down weeds which begin to grow apace at this time of the year. It is most important to destroy them as their competition is felt keenly by other plants. In the later stages they do not matter quite so much, provided they are not allowed to flower and produce seed.

7. Sow peas.

8. Attend to Fruit.

I was working in the garden until gone 10.00 this evening and in a short sleeved shirt! Amazing, no wind, warm sunshine and with the birds singing it was bliss!

More bad news l am afraid. I let my girls out when l got back from work at lunchtime only for the fox to wait until my back was turned. This time is was Bridgit, a beautiful black Maran type and a good layer so now we are down to 3 girls. So, this evening, l started to build an Ark, a covered run and house which can be moved around the garden. I think its the best solution. I am on the lookout for a couple of Buff Orpington’s. We used to have these back in the UK. They are lovely hens. Either that or a couple more black Marans which are very good layers.

No real significant rain in months is making this a very difficult year for growing anything in the garden. Today the temperature is nudging 30c and the ground is baked dry. It will take about 24 hours of good rain to get the ground back to normal. Our water is metered and is expensive so l am installing a micro irrigation system in the veg plot. My potatoes were wilting and l realised they were dry as a bone under the plastic membrane. A good dousing soon got them looking healthy again.

In the greenhouse things are really going. I have a small confession to make…the cucumbers are not strictly my own…l bought them in as young plants. But look at them now!

Young cucumber

First tomato

So, l am off to do a rain dance and hope that, this time, its more than a passing shower! How is the weather affecting your gardens?


Posted by on May 24, 2010 in May, The garden


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Some wartime memorabilia

Over the past few weeks l have successfully bid for some wartime ‘Dig for Victory’ memorabilia.  Since l have started writing this blog l have searched the internet for additional information to help me in my postings, whether that has been in the form of posters from that period, leaflets, booklets etc. Some of them have obviously become collectable items especially the Allotment & Garden Guides and Seed catalogues. I thought l had secured a seed catalogue when l placed a bid at nearly £10.00. It actually went for nearer £40.00! Remarkable. So, in my quest to build up a little bit of WW2 history and with a limited budget, l only bid on ebay on items that really take my interest. These are some of them:

Dig for Victory

This is the leaflet informing people on How To Dig. Its all good common sense stuff but l must get myself a nice trilby and a waistcoat!

How to Dig

I hope you have all noticed how the digger has stepped back with one foot!

Cropping plan

I am really pleased l got this leaflet. When l read this l have this image of the characters from The Fast Show when they were talking very matter of fact dressed as men during the war, smoking pipes, ‘Vegetables all the year round if you crop wisely Mr Chummley-Warner!’

Cropping Plan 2

Janice surprised me the other day when she got me a Dig for Victory mug! How nice is that!

Dig for Victory mug

Weather here still remains dry. We had a drop of rain last Friday but l believe Brittany is declaring itself in a state of drought! No real rain since before Easter is making the garden very dry and very difficult to work in. There is a distinct lack of growth in nearly all the seedlings despite my watering. I have set up a new irrigation system in my plot ready for worsening conditions! How are things with you?


Posted by on May 16, 2010 in May, The garden, Uncategorized


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Full steam ahead

Mr MIDDLETON says: Little and often is the golden rule with fertilizers; a little less rather than a little more.


1. Plant out celery and celeriac.- Celery is normally planted out in trenches in single or double rows….celery being a bog plant requires an abundance of water. Dust with old soot often, to keep the celery fly away. Celeriac, which is grown for its turnip-like root, requires a rich soil and much feeding to get really good roots.

2. Thin out seedlings.- Many rows of seedlings will need thinning out from time to time. This can be done at one stage, though normal practice is to do it twice. The first time the rows are reduced and specimens left about twice as thick as is necessary. This leaves plenty to cover failures. The alternate plants are removed at the final thinning. With carrots the disturbance of the row loosens the soil and permits the carrot fly to lay its eggs near the roots of the plants, and the pungent smell attracts the pest. Immediately after thinning, the rows should be watered and naphthalene hoed in along each side of the rows.

3. Onions and Their Enemies.-

4. Plant Cucumbers.-

5.- Sow Swedes and Turnips.-

6.- Sow and Plant.- Sow maincrop beet and haricot beans. Plant out late cauilflowers and New Zealand spinach. Apply mulches to any fuit trees that need it. Protect beans outside if weather is unseasonable.

I have only just transplanted my celeriac so it is too early for me to plant outside just yet. I bought some celery plants from a new shop just opened in town selling only local produce. I’m all in favour of supporting anything like that. The plants have been slow to pick up but are putting on new growth now.

We had a drop of rain last week but with these winds the soil has soon dried out again and l am having to continue to water. Carrots are up but very slow in putting any growth on. Unlike my spuds under cover that are truly romping away.

Spuds under cover

A little pearl

A couple more weeks and we should be eating our first plate of new potatoes, with a big dollop of butter, of course!

Salad & Herbs

The salad plants are the cut and come again variety so there is no need to thin them. Of course, if you did, then the plant can also be used in a salad. I LOVE coriander leaf, especially in curries, so l tend to grow a lot of this!

Bean poles with willow

I have weaved some willow into the bean poles so that the sweet peas have something more to cling onto in their fight to get going. Even these small plants are sending out flowers already.

Me & Bertha

On a sadder note, l am afraid l have lost dear Bertha, probably to the fox. Every day l let them out into the field and it is  lovely to see them scratching about, having a dust bath, chasing off other birds but on Friday night Bertha never returned. She was a heavy girl and, as far as l know, never laid an egg in her life. She was a pet and a cuddly one at that! I will miss her.


Posted by on May 10, 2010 in May, The garden, Uncategorized


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VE Day 65 years on

It is 65 years ago to the day that Great Britain and the rest of Europe were celebrating the end of the Second World War. A war that had gone on for 6 long years, cost millions of lives, had brought untold hardship and suffering to even more millions of people the like of which we will never know. And for those that had survived it was a time to celebrate and rejoice.

Here in France it is a National Holiday and l believe we should do the same in the UK. It seems fitting to mark this day as an entry on my blog. But as such l know l have to keep it short so l hope l can capture the spirit of the time in the following extracts.

On 4 May 1945 the German forces in north-western Europe surrendered to General Montgomery at Luneberg Heath. On 7 May the German Supreme command surrendered at Rheims. The 8 May was designated as VE-Day – Victory in Europe Day (the war against the Japanese still continued). In Britain there was a great deal of rejoicing and for the first time for many years there was floodlighting of public buildings and statues; restaurants, cinemas and theatres were fully lit up. It was said that some children were terrified by the unexpected amount of light!

The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, announced to the nation that Germany had, at last, surrendered.

There were scenes of great jubilation, Churchill appeared with the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.He announced to the crowd: “This is your victory. It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.” The crowds below cheered and sang ‘For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ followed by three cheers for victory.

Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the King and Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth.

VE Day dawned, and for the first time in almost 6 years the weather forecast could be published in the newspapers. ‘Wind freshening; warm and sunny at first but rain can be expected later’, read the Daily Mirror. But the forecast was wrong: ‘the sudden warm snap’ did continue. By the afternoon the temperature in London had risen to 75F and the celebrating crowds sweltered in the unseasonal heat.

Nothing official had been planned to celebrate Victory in Europe. Resentment still simmered in some quarters. ‘A muddle, it was a muddle’. ‘Telling us over and over the church bells would be the signal. And then there was no signal. Just hanging around’. ‘Do ’em no good in the General Election. The way they have gone on over this. People won’t forget it. An insult that’s what it was…No bells, no All Clears. Nothing to start the people off. That’s what they were afraid of…’ J.G.

But the people did celebrate and took it upon themselves to organise street parties up and down the land. Neighbours pooled their sweet rations and made cakes and sandwiches. They tore down the black-out curtains and made them into fancy dress for the children, music was played in the streets and many had bonfires with effigies of Hitler on top of them.

The following is from a woman working at W.V.S. headquarters in London and describes the night in a letter to a friend:

We all walked to Buckingham Palace. As we got in front of it the flood-lighting flicked on. It was wonderful…magnificent and inspiring and it seemed we had never seen so beautiful a building. The crowd was everywhere and yet one could walk through it. We edged our way to a good view of the balcony, which was draped with crimson, with a yellow and gold fringe. The crowd was such that l have never seen- l was never so proud of England and our people. It was a crowd of seperate individuals. There was never any mass feeling. Everybody spoke quietly or was silent- everybody looked just relieved and glad. We waited. Coloured rockets went up behind us. Then the King and Queen and two Princessses came onto the balcony. We yelled and yelled and yelled and waved and cheered. They waved back to us. It was wonderful…then we began  to walk.We went to a huge bonfire in the park. People had joined hands and were circling round it. We walked by the lake- there were coloured lights in the trees and bushes reflected in the water. We came out of the Park by the Middlesex Guild Hall. It was floodlit in a warm yellowish light and looked medieval with flags from what looked like the battlements.

We went to Big Ben. It was floodlit and looked magnificent. I heard myself say ‘Dear Big Ben! Dear Big Ben!’ The Houses were floodlit from the river and all the lights along the Terrace. What moved us all beyond anything else was the great Union Jack on the Lords. It, alone, was floodlit by lights going straight upwards. It was a great, lovely Union Jack, flying grandly in the sky by itself…We walked to the middle of Westminster Bridge and stood there. Searchlights were all rotating and making a kaleidoscope pattern all over the sky. County Hall was lit in two colours and the training ships in the river strung with coloured lights…We walked back to Parliament Square and turn ed to face Big Ben. It was a few minutes to midnight…At one minute past, all fighting was to cease. It was absolutely silent. Big Ben struck. Just before the last stroke it had reached one minute past. A great cry went up and people clapped their hands. Something went off with a bang…The tugs in the river gave the V sign. It was unforgettable.


Posted by on May 8, 2010 in May



Vegetable luxuries

Another entry from Mr Middleton’s ‘Digging for Victory’.

In these critical times the wise gardener is thinking of the winter supplies, and concentrating his energies on getting plenty of the utility vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips, swedes, artichokes, and winter greens are of the first importance. But it doesn’t follow that we should deny ourselves everything in the nature of a luxury, especially as some of the so-called luxury vegetables can be produced without interfering with the general Dig for Victory plans.

Variety is good for us, and the vegetable diet can become a little monotonous without the addition of an occasional novelty, just by way of a change, and to add interest to the proceedings. Apparently a good many of my listeners have been thinking along these lines, for l have had quite a lot of letters lately about such things as mushrooms, melons and pumpkin: to say nothing of asparagus, peaches, and strawberries.

Now l am not going to advocate the growing of any of these in war-time if it means neglecting the essential subject; but where they can be conveniently fitted into the scheme of things, to add variety, and make life a little more worth living, l’m all for them, in moderation, of course.

Anderson Shelter

Mr Middleton goes on to tell us how to cultivate mushrooms under some turf or in a cold frame; and to make use of every square inch in the garden by growing marrows on top of the Anderson air-raid shelter! He was way ahead of his time when he suggests after thinning out the seedlings of turnips, carrots, onions, lettuce and parsnips, not to throw them on the compost heap but to use them in a salad. I believe people today are paying a small fortune buying salads in this form!

He finishes off by adding:

‘One thing l like about war-time gardening is that l have less mowing to do; there isn’t much left to mow, so l can get on with the hoeing instead; hoeing between the vegetable rows is a much more useful occupation, and keeps the crops on the move, so don’t let the hoe go rusty.’

I couldn’t agree more! We have just had a spell of long overdue rain so it should be perfect. Have a great weekend and remember tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of VE Day.


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Thank God for Churchill

So people are casting their votes as we speak and, it looks like a Conservative government could be coming back in. I will reserve comment but suffice to say that the only true conservative leader this country has ever seen has to be the one and only Sir Winston! It was only through his sheer guts and determination that we eventually won the war. There was no room for the ‘shall we, shan’t we’s’ of this world. He was the right man, for the right job, at the right time. We could do with someone like him now! Deep breath and lets see what the next 5 years brings us all. God Save the Queen!

A true leader

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Posted by on May 6, 2010 in May, Uncategorized



‘Cast not a clout till May be out’

How true! I don’t know about you but here we are still having log fires in the evenings and wrapping up in fleeces during the day! A friend of mine who lives in the south of France told me the other day that she had snow and power cuts and it was -1c! Its not as bad as that here but l have had enough of that northerly wind.


2. Sow Runner Beans Outside.- In the south and midlands runner beans and dwarf beans may now be risked outside. By the time they are through the danger of severe frost will be fairly remote. It is still early to plant out those raised under glass, but they should be hardened off as much as possible.

4.Sow Beet and Sweetcorn.- Sow seakale beet and spinach beet in rows 18-in. apart. Put the seed in pinches at intervals of 9-in. Sweet corn seeds may be sown out of doors now in the south, but they may need cloche protection for a short time.

6. Keep Strawberries Clean.- When the flower stalks of strawberries appear, clean straw should be placed around the plants to keep the fruit clean. It must be put down carefully and the trusses placed over it. Special mats of straw can be purchased for the purpose.

7. Sow and Plant.- Sow and plant out lettuce. Sow more peas, and plant out tall peas raised inside. Finish planting potatoes. Thin parsnips and other seedlings. Prick out celery and celeriac. Sow scorzonera out of doors and radishes for succession. Hoe and keep down weeds.


My beanpoles are in and l have planted some of my sweet peas to mingle with the beans as they all grow up the poles. In the middle of the poles are a catch crop of lettuce which l should be able to harvest before the peas and beans get too big.The cultivation of runner beans posed a serious problem during the war as there was a shortage of bamboos and long stakes prompting some people to actually steal them!

runner beans

I planted some runner beans, Lady Di, in my unheated greenhouse and they are doing really well. I saved the seeds from last years crop by leaving some beans on the plant and letting them dry off naturally. These then went into a sealed box in the fridge over winter.


The celeriac is growing well and this weekend l will thin them out ready to grow on and plant out. I love celeriac roasted and one Christmas l went out into my garden to gather the vegetables ready for the dinner. When l came to pull, what looked like a beautiful row of celeriac, the plant literally broke off in my hand. On closer inspection l noticed that something, probably a mouse, had completely eaten away the inside of the plant leaving the outside shell untouched. Very clever!

First broad bean

Looking forward to lots more of these!


Posted by on May 6, 2010 in May, The garden


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Reminders for May

Another exert from ‘Mr Middleton Talks About Gardening’:

Reminders for May.

Here we are in May at last, and very pleasant it is. I don’t think l have ever seen the countryside looking so pretty- and its going to look even prettier still during the next week or two. While l was sitting here waiting for the red light to twinkle, l was trying to recollect a poem l used to know about the month of May, but my head is so full of cats and pepper that l think l have quite forgotten everything else, and l can’t recall it. But the gist of it was that though you may travel east and west through palm-covered isles ‘neath tropic skies, and all the rest of it, you will never find a sweeter sight than an English garden in May. And l dare say a good many of you will agree with that sentiment. Where else could you find, say, lilies of the valley and bluebells and apple blossom, flowering crabs and the golden chains of laburnum, and lilac in such perfection and profusion as we find in an English cottage garden this month?

Does anyone recognise the poem he is trying to remember? I’ve tried Goggling the words and the nearest l can get is something from Rudyard Kipling. I’ll keep trying. Oh, to be in Britain back then…

We had 25c here in the week. Spring had sprung off and summer was here! It was like July but very short lived, so having had summer we are head long into Autumn with grey skies and temperatures around 12c. And still no rain! I am hoping for a deluge tomorrow as the ground really needs a soaking.

I picked my first sweet pea this evening. It smelt beautiful and can’t wait for more. We are eating the first of the radish and salad. So nice to go into the garden and start picking fresh salad leaves.

It is International Dawn Chorus Day tomorrow so l will be setting my alarm clock to go off earlier than normal for a Sunday and take myself off through the woods and down to the river and listen to Nature’s Chorus. Hope you all have a great Bank Holiday.


Posted by on May 1, 2010 in May, The garden


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