Got an hour and a sofa? Join the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend

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This weekend I will be taking one hour to curl up with my kids, my binoculars, a cup of tea and some biscuits to watch out for wildlife in our garden. The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey. 590,000 people took part last year and 8.2 millions birds were spotted.

Bird populations are a great indicator of the health of the countryside, the State of Nature report concluded that nature is in serious trouble and garden favourites like house sparrows, starlings and hedgehogs are really struggling. The more people that get involved, the more we can learn, plus it is really easy… Continue reading

You Garden…Now is the perfect time for

Now is the perfect time for

Now is the perfect time for by penny-alexander on Polyvore

Plants make great Christmas presents, but they can be bewildering. Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you have to give up on the garden. In fact now is the perfect time to plan some springtime surprises.

I have taken nine plants that grabbed my attention from You Garden. What also grabbed my attention is You Garden’s no nonsense approach. They believe gardening is for everyone, so no jargon, no Latin, just simple instructions, with how tos and videos to help. You Garden plants are chosen because they simplest to grow and most likely to get you results with minimum levels of experience.  And great prices too.

Here are my nine! What do you fancy?

This Japanese Cherry Blossom will grow no more than 3ft in 10 years unpruned so is an easy way to add spring blossom, Autumnal colour and Winter drama to a garden.

Primula Gold Lace has been popular since Victorian times. These flowers would be lovely in a small vase and cope well with light shade.

Lady Marmalade was selected by many rose experts as Rose of the Year for 2014. Its long lasting and strongly spice scented orange tonal flowers appear all Summer. Roses can be planted through til April, but this one is selling out fast.

Chinese Redbud ‘Avondale’ This will grow no more than 9-10 ft in 10 years it is an easy tree to introduce with absolutely spectacular results. £9.99 seems an absolute bargain for blossom!

Snowdrops. if you are quick and plant these in December you can be admiring these majestical little miracles come March. If you plant one thing, let it be these beauties. these are freshly lifted bulbs, so need planting within a week, so you’ll have no excuse!

Mini Orchard Fruit tree collection. What could be more magical than preparing a fruit harvest? With beautiful, fragrant blossom in spring followed by ‘Victoria’ plums cropping from July, ‘Conference’ pears in September and ‘Braeburn’ apples in October this is a plant that keeps giving. Crops will increase each year and plants can be grown in containers, so don’t put this one off!

24 jumbo plugs of these Rosebud Primroses will brighten up any garden come springtime.

My Dad has dried allium heads in a vase and I always marvel at their incredible shape. Allium Globemaste  has enormous, deep-purple flower heads that grow up to 20cm across, from May.

Tinkled Pink is a new apple tree which is described as tasting like Rosy Apple sweets, which immediately makes my mouth water. Its flesh as you can see from the picture is red to the core.

All the plants featured are available to order online from You Garden

Digging for spuds and definition

Digging up Spuds at Stonehurst Farm

I am looking out through the grey clouds to the end of the garden, thinking all my hard work in spring has now left me with a great pile of half harvested crops. Yesterday I went to the farm with L’s class and we got to harvest potatoes, which reminded me we must do ours. In previous year’s L’s birthday has been tomato ripening weather, but this week has been so chilly, I almost want to shut the door on the garden and curl up with a gardening book and a cup of tea instead. But there is Miss L dangling a carrot in front of my nose, we will harvest the potatoes this week, you can’t beat digging up spuds Continue reading

The garden pond project

As we fell asleep in the tent last weekend Miss L demanded stories. Having forgotten to pack books, I began to patch together some stories from my childhood. Out popped the frogs.

I must have been 6 or 7, at the bottom of the cul de sac at the end of our road was a small park. It being the 80s, we were allowed to go down there as long as we were in a gang. I remember arriving to find the thick grass around the park alive with tiny frogs. Continue reading

A little legacy garden update

How was your heatwave weekend, did you make the most of the garden or outdoor spaces? We barely left ours.

Although, I’m actually typing this from a friend’s amazing garden where I am on ‘listening out for newborn duty’. All visits to a new mum must involve supplying lunch, helping with jobs, and packing the new mum off to sleep while the baby sleeps.

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Tragic flowers, digging borders and slug swoops

We managed to pull together a small posy of flowers to take to see Mr A’s Grandma yesterday (I know, how very vintage, for someone who constantly bemoans the vintage thing). But I am wishing we had more flowers in the garden. The white climbing rose bush is lovely and flowers all summer, but the peonies as always decided to flower in a thunderstorm and now lie in a tragic mess on the tiles. Poppies are springing up left right and centre, but just like the peonies are gone in a flash. I’m waiting for all the wild flowers I planted.

I’m living in fear of slugs devouring all my efforts in the garden. The garden has taken on a whole new significance to me this year, and I will be pretty devastated if my efforts are demolished in one slug like swoop. Mr A realises this, and keeps asking what I am doing about slugs. I was relying on luck and eggshells until a friend posted a picture of one about to attack a plant on facebook last week, at which point I reached for the slug pellets.

The swing seat Mr A bought makes us all very happy, but we could do with somewhere to eat. I was thinking about a picnic bench on the lawn, although if we could just extend the decking, I would really love this cube rattan garden furniture from Internet Gardener. I also fancy one of these wooden planters to stop an alcove in the decking becoming a dumping ground, and to disguise the window from the decking into the bathroom.

While we visited Great Grandma I spied a greenhouse in her neighbour’s garden, and I was instantly taken back to the sickly sweet smell of tomatoes in my Grandad’s greenhouse. I wanted a potting bench and a greenhouse.

Mum’s tomato sauce recipe and my Grandad in the greenhouse

We’ve dug a big trench, me and Mister G. I’m not sure what we are doing with it but it is the one garden job G really enjoys. Me wielding a spade, and him the hose to soften the ground. The idea was a border to disguise the concrete fence and soften the hedge side of the garden. Jen was telling me about roll out ready made borders you can buy, which sound like a really easy solution. Or Dad says we can transplant lots of the herbs and plants we have already. I’m also toying with the idea of just planting lots of wildflowers.

So that’s a little update from us. How’s your garden growing?

Commissioned post

To call a spade a spade

My Grandad’s old spade hangs on the wall, to remind me that greenfingers do run in my family, that gardening is a huge legacy and I really want to learn more about it. Watching my Dad, another keen gardener, with L, or seeing the way my brother grows chillis and tomatoes on his London balcony, I always thought the green fingers had bypassed me. Then, in my typical bull in a china shop, Gemini fashion, I decided to attack the garden one day.

This is what it looks like in the Estate Agents documents, from when we nearly sold it last year. Neat and tidy but a bit bare. Glad we didn’t sell it, but we need to ‘reown’ it.

I decided we were having a veg patch. Mr G was put to work on hosing the turf, while I dug. Each time I dug it got a little easier, instinct and Mr G’s excited shrieks kicked in. I’ve watched my Dad digging enough times over the years. We even found an old horseshoe which sent Mr G on a fabulous journey of the imagination and had history mad Miss L speculating.

We added the old boat shaped sandpit as a raised bed

We stuck canes in as we had seen my Dad do, to keep the neighbours cats off. Then we forgot about it (told you, I am a Gemini, master of unfinished projects).

Until my Dad gave us a Kew Gardens seed and soil test kit. We tested the soil in a series of test tubes and realised it was perfect for growing stuff. So we filled the old sandpit with the wild flowers that came with the kit and added the broken old watering can and the old horseshoe for decoration. I hope it brings our crops luck!

Then Mr G and I found some pea seeds in a tin in the shed. As I was planting the peas I could see my Grandad in my mind, hear him, telling me how to do it. I could see his big hands, the dirt permanently engrained in the creases, gently pointing where to go. And the peas, they only went and grew!

See, all that information I’ve absorbed from watching the professionals in action is there, just a bit buried. I’ve had two rather fast growing little ones to look after and there hasn’t been much time for plants in my life.

We bought some more seeds, and me and Miss l went for it.

We thought some windmills would brighten it up and some log roll edging to keep little feet from jumping onto the seeds as they grew.

It still felt a bit flat, so what we needed was a scarecrow. I looked around for some ideas and discovered hessian ones last longer. You can see how I did it in my how to make a scarecrow post.

Costings

Seeds – £17 (bumblebee wild flower mix, peas, carrots, broccoli, beetroot, lettuce)

Tomato plants  – £3 in the sale

Scarecrow materials – £10 online/petshop

Log roll edging – £10 Asda

Windmills – £4 for 8 mini ones Asda, larger ones National Trust £6 for 2.

How to make a scarecrow

You need – 2 Hessian sacks (I bought mine online) Straw (from the pet shop), garden twine, an old plastic milk bottle, scissors, a darning needle, an old broom handle, a garden cane, marker pen, hat and props.

1. Cut one sack in half, from the bottom, to about two thirds of the way up to the top to make the legs. Cut the other sack in half, but all the way, this will be the arms and head covering.

2. Sew the legs, I used garden twine, leaving room to now stuff the broom handle between the legs. Stuff with straw.

3. Take  one half of the other sack and cut a head hole in the long edge, put this over the broom. Sew along the the open length of the sack, first creating the left arm, then sewing around the body to attach to the legs. You will need to scrunch up the fabric of the ‘leg’ sack to ensure there is room left to sew along the length on the other side to make the right arm.

4. Stick a cane through the length of the arms and stuff the body and arms and then tie the ends with string.

5. Using the leftover half sack, cover the milk bottle in sack with the excess length under what will be the scarecrow’s chin.  Stuff in some straw. You can either sew the head to the body, or just tie using the excess sack around the pole with string which gives a less Frankenstein like appearance!

6. Kids can add features with marker pen or with props. Excess sack bits can be used to make a nose, or perhaps a scarf.

Becky has a no spend scarecrow here or you can buy a rather lovely full kit.

What do the images in your home mean to you?

I read a list of decluttering tips that made me rather sad recently. It suggested going back to the Victorian trend of reserving photo frames in your home only for people who are dead. For me images in my home are about capturing life: adventures, moments, people and feelings you want to remember.

When I was asked to review a next day delivery canvas service from Your Image 2 Canvas, I immediately knew I wanted pictures that would remind me of our outdoor adventures. Pictures that would bring the outdoors inside and encourage us to continue to get out. I haven’t quite decided where to put them up yet as we are in the midst of a huge reorganisation, so I thought it was appropriate to photograph them outdoors. Continue reading

Little Legacy – A kitchen garden and vegetarian kebabs

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I am loving our garden at the moment. I owe that to my Dad, who over the last seven years has filled it with herbs and plants that attract wildlife. It has a wild messiness about it I love. The oregano is nestling under flash but tragic peonies that always flower and flop around my birthday. There are beautiful wild primroses and bluebells next to chives and marjoram. Alpine strawberries clambering under a buddleia, borage bursting up next to brambles.

Dad is really inspiring, hence this post is one of my little legacies, but ultimately I want to master gardening myself. Last weekend I finally stopped procrastinating and dug a veg patch, more on that in another post. For now, at long last, all those green shoots are springing up, a wonderful gift from Dad, and they had got me thinking about what to use all those wonderful herbs for.

I have been dreaming of barbecues all week since we missed the chance last weekend. Mum often made vegetarian kebabs marinated in garlic and herbs, and her barbecued bananas with rum and cinnamon and ice cream were amazing. Then Schwartz, a global leader in herb and spices, asked me what I would do with two of their herbs, oregano and paprika.These veggie kebabs and Greek salad seemed like a great idea.

 Ingredients

  • 400g quorn or tofu pieces/cubes.
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tbs sweet paprika
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • Lebanese bread
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Lemon wedges

Greek salad

  • 2 green peppers, thinly sliced widthways
  • 1 cucumber cut into chunks
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 100g small black olives
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve
  • I have left out the red onion, I can’t stand it, but use it if you like it!
  1. Mix the tofu or quorn with the garlic, oil, oregano, paprika and lemon juice in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for 3 hours.
  2. Thread the tofu/quorn evenly onto 12 bamboo skewers. Preheat a barbecue or grill pan on high. Cook, turning occasionally, for 6-8 minutes until cooked to your liking.
  3. To make the Greek salad mix, cucumber, tomato, onion, olives and feta in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil.
  4. Divide tofu/quorn among serving plates. Serve with Greek salad, bread, yoghurt and lemon wedges.
Wondering if it is BBQ weather? Check the weather forecast here!

What do you like to cook with oregano and paprika?

@AResidence