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Category Archives: The garden

Small Beginnings

I have decided to add a few bits and pieces to the patio in the shape of containers with herbs and salads. I don’t know about you but l find the small pots of herbs sold in most supermarkets are great value especially if you nurture them on a bit and then plant them up outside.

You have treat them carefully, after all, they have been living a cosy life indoors all their short lives but hopefully they will pick up and continue to produce some lovely herbs over the coming weeks.

I am going to sow some salad crops soon in small boxes, probably the cut-and-come-again varieties.

But what is stopping me from becoming Mr Container Man is the possibility that our landlord might, just might sell us this house! I have no wish to tempt fate but we should know for sure in the coming weeks. It would be too late for me to get on with much in the vegetable garden but l could make great progress in the Autumn preparing the plot ready for next year. I hardly even think too much about it!

Chelsea is with us again but as each one passes l become less and less attracted by the pomp and snobbery attached to the show gardens. It all looks so showroom and a million miles from what the vast majority of us could ever afford even if we wanted such a thing. No, l will be aiming at recreating a 1940’s garden hopefully complete with my own take on an Anderson’s Shelter and with some lawn to keep Mrs Hunt happy, of course! I just have to be patient……….

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in May, The garden

 

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Vegetable seeds

Some of you will already have ordered your seeds for the coming year. Some of you will be browsing the catalogues and will be trying to reduce your initial selection, after all, you only have so much room to grow all that lovely veg! And the rest of us will be hoping that very soon we will have a garden or an allotment again in order to grow our own….boo hoo!

It is not necessarily such a good thing to have so much choice when it comes to selecting which varieties of vegetables to grow. The list seems to get longer and longer every year. Strange and obscure varieties from all over the place are now available to us, far more than probably ever before with the resurgence in growing your own. Having grown vegetables for many years now l have come to the conclusion that it is a pretty safe bet to choose the old trusted varieties wherever possible. After all, they have stood the test of time, usually have great flavour, and you know that what you are growing and will eventually eat will be the same as those folk who probably tended your plot all those years ago too. I get a great kick from that.Some modern varieties will offer greater disease resistance and possibly a heavier yield so the choice is yours. Its always good to try something new, or old come to that!

So what are these old varieties and where can they be found?

Most seed firms will offer some of these old varieties today and by scouring the internet you will also find specialist nurseries and seed companies offering ‘heirloom varieties’. Garden Organic, Chiltern Seeds, Suttons, amongst others. One of the best resources comes from Garden Organic and their HSL (Heritage Seed Library). Once you are a member they give you a choice of up to six different heritage seed varieties to grow that are not available to buy in the shops.

Back in the days of the Dig for Victory campaign seeds were generally bought loose in paper bags from your local supplier and the choice was take it or leave it! Very often it was first come first served especially when it came to seed potatoes. There were some good seed companies around who initially offered catalogues but as the war went on some decided the paper should be put to better use and hence catalogues became scarce. Seeds themselves became scarce due to the enormous demand the Dig for Victory campaign made on the seed companies which urged people to order early in order not to be disappointed. Not only do we have so much choice today we also have many other outlets in which to purchase our orders, including the wonders of the internet. I wonder what they would think of that?

The W.I. had access to a good seed supply that was given to them from the Canadian W.I. as a gesture of goodwill. Varieties included (Zucchini) courgettes and Mange-tout. I wonder what they thought of those?

Seed companies back in the 1940’s included Bees, Webbs, Lowis, Suttons, Carters, Dobbie & Co, Thompson & Morgan and Cuthberts who sold through Woolworths, of which both companies have since gone. I remember buying my seeds from Woolworths as they were usually much cheaper than the rest.

I have a good collection of books and catalogues from the 1940’s and these have adverts in from some of these old seed companies. Varieties included:

Potatoes; Arran Pilot, Duke of York, Epicure, Arran Banner, Gladstone, Majestic and King Edward.

Carrots: Early Horn, Early Market and James Intermediate.

Parsnip: Student and Tender and True.

Onions: Bedfordshire Champion, Ailsa Craig, Rousham Park Hero, Up to Date, Giant Zittau and White Lisbon.

Leeks: Lyon, Musselburgh, Prizetaker, and Walton Mammoth.

Runner Beans: Best of All, Princeps, Prizewinner and Scarlet Emperor.

Dwarf Beans: Canadian Wonder and Masterpiece.

Broad Beans: Broad Windsor and Seville Longpod.

Cabbages: Primo, Winnigstadt, January King, Offenham and Flower of Spring.

Brussels Sprouts: Harrisons xxx and Wroxton.

Cauliflower: Early London, Snowball, Allthe Year Round and Autumn Giant.

Broccoli: Veitch’s Self Protecting, Snow’s Winter White, Late Queen and Leamington.

Spinach: Long-Standing Summer, Round-Leafed Victoria and Prickly.

Celery: Covent Garden Red and Sandringham White.

Lettuce: All the Year Round, Feltham King, Lobjoit’s Green Cos, Arctic King, Stanstead Park and Hardy Winter White Cos.

Radish: French Breakfast, Scarlet Globe and parkler.

Tomato: Open Air and Sunrise.

Ridge Cucumbers: Stockwood Ridge and King of the Ridge.

Vegetable Marrows (Courgettes): Green Bush and White Bush.

This is not a comprehensive list and l will add more as and when l come across them. Maybe you can help me?

Of course, for those fortunate enough, you could have always saved some seed from last year. More on that next time.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in January, The garden

 

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Here’s to 2012!

I just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy & Healthy New Year and to give a quick update on my position.

Well, we are still in our rental cottage. We have been here over 3 months now and are slowly narrowing down our search for a place to buy. It is hard work as not that many properties are coming onto the market. We love being back in good old Blighty and l have had some great book finds in the charity shops including a huge tomb of a book by the great Mr Middleton. I can’t wait to have my own garden again and hopefully in time to start a new plot for the coming growing season.

I will start to contribute to this blog again over the coming weeks but in the meantime l wish you all a great new growing year and may all your pests and bugs be few and your produce be bountiful and healthy!

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in The garden

 

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Time for Tea

I can’t believe the weekend is upon us again already! It makes me realise how important it is for us to stop, take a breather and have a look around with a nice cup of tea. Better still, get out that sun lounger and take a few well earned minutes to listen to the radio…with a nice cup of tea , of course! Whatever you’re doing, have a great weekend and enjoy this sunshine.

Time for Tea

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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May – 2nd Week

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 in trenches in single or double rows. Set the plants out 9 in. apart. Water with liquid manure. 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. It is a fine vegetable for soup, and is excellent boiled.

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 roots 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. Where the fly has proved a nuisance in the past it is better to sow the seeds sparingly and to leave the rows unthinned.

3. Onions and Their Enemies.- The same sort of thing applies to onions which, when sown out of doors and thinned, attract the onion fly where fly is prevalent. It is better to leave them unthinned and take a crop of smaller onions.


4. Plant Cucumbers.-
Cucumbers can now be planted in frames.

5. Sow Swedes and Turnips.- swede and turnips should be sown now in the north if they are to achieve full development.

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

Unfortunately, a lot of this weeks advice is not relevant to me as l am not planting up winter veg due to our house being for sale and l foresee a move back to Blighty before the year is out. However, l will heed his advice regarding the thinning of seedlings and will not be thinning my carrots just yet. I like to grow them on until they are of edible size and then have a few meals of baby carrots. I will be putting a frame over them with a fleece to keep the carrot fly at bay.

Like every gardener/cook, l love onions and garlic but my garden here won’t allow me to grow them. They suffer first with rust, and worst of all, onion white rot. There is no cure for this disease and can stay in the soil for up to 8 years. So rather than live in hope l use the space to grow other crops.

Roger, my friend & assistant!

I sowed spinach and Swiss Chard a couple of weeks ago and both are doing well. I like to make curries and use the leaves to do a mean Spinach and Potato Curry or, later on, a Green Curry that is one of the best l have ever tasted. I will share the recipe nearer the time.

I have planted out my cucumber plants in the open and training them up a willow wigwam. They seem to be doing okay at the moment. Fingers crossed there will not be a late frost!

 

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Under attack!

As some of you already know, we have three hens, we did have five but the fox got two last year. I let them out into our field to roam free everyday and they take their chance. I hate to see them cooped up. Our field adjoins my veg patch and once or twice they have managed to get in and scratch about a bit but we have always been about to shoo them back out. Not this time!

What a mess!

The ironic thing was before we went out l had cut a beautiful lettuce to take to friends. That was the last one l would see for a while! They must have had about 5 hours in there to scratch, eat and peck at everything. The salad took the worst of the attack. Lettuce leaves everywhere. Potatoes ripped out. Squash plants pecked to bits.

Spuds blitzed!

This is too much to allow so now they are off to pastures new. My veg plot means more to me than those hens. My brother-in-law has said he will have them as he already has hens out here and it is one less thing for us to have to worry about when we come to leave here. A big clear-up operation will be under way this morning. Mind over matter!

Let-us prey!

I have a small idea of how people felt back in the war when their veg plots were damaged by bombs or covered in broken glass and they couldn’t eat anything or the allotment has been hit by vandals. The feeling is horrible but as the war-time poster says: Stay Calm and Carry On! I will be able to replace most of it and worst things are happening out there right now. I will put it down to me being too blasé and regard it as another lesson in life! Anyone for a half eaten lettuce?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in The garden

 

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Roses & Fruit

First of all l have a small confession to make. Strictly speaking these are not my roses. I bought them in England from David Austin, brought them back to France, planted them, fed, watered and pruned them BUT not in my garden! They are in a client’s garden who just happens to have a love of English roses, especially David Austin, oh and only in Pink, so who am l to argue. They live in Switzerland and only visit a couple of times a year but, fortunately for her, had timed one of her visits the other week so was able to enjoy the first of the blooms.

Constance Spry

The first one here is Constance Spry, it has a strong myrrh fragrance, almost like the smell of a bar of Camay soap of dream like quality. It can grow 12ft or more as a climber. A full flowered rose. Great as a cut flower.

Gertrude Jekyll

Next up is my all time favourite, and the nation’s as well by all accounts, Gertrude Jekyll. This has the most amazing fragrance. I wish we had smellinet and l could share it with you! David Austin describes it as having ‘the quintessential old rose fragrance’. I fully agree. I could get high off this fragrance! A real ‘must have’ in any garden, but beware, this lady is quite prickly.

Paul's Himalyan Musk

Paul's Himalyan Musk

Another rose l planted was in the corner of their house as it has a reputation of being quite a rampant, vigorous rambler, Paul’s Himalayan Musk. This boy can reach up to 30ft and is ideal for a pergola or to cover a building. This, too, has a great fragrance. The flowers are quite delicate and only flower once but wow, what a display.

James Galway

I also planted two ‘James Galway’ either side of their front door. These have done really well and make a wonderful entrance. the flowers are full and, again, have a beautiful old rose fragrance. Some people say it is a shame roses cannot be in flower all summer long but l think this is what makes them so special. For most of them to be in flower in the months of May and June, this is what makes an English Summer.

In this garden they are lucky enough to have several fruit trees. My favourite is the Quince so l was really pleased to see the fruit had set on the tree. Nothing can stop us now from having a good crop come September and October. A late frost got last year’s blossom and there wasn’t a single fruit to be had. It should be a good year for all fruit, both in the garden and the hedgerow. Can’t wait!

Quince

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Flowers, May, The garden

 

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