Invasion of the tomatos

No, not more veg box offerings, grow your own this time. On tuesday I took some of my surplus herb seedlings to a plant swap and ended up with more plants than I was intending to bring back. I certainly wasn’t planning on 3 more tomato plants. I believe they are 1 each of:

  • Marmande
  • San marzano
  • Golden sunrise

It looks like the san marzano and golden sunrise are greenhouse varieties so I don’t know what I’ll do with those, perhaps the mini green house could be adapted be taking the shelves out. Marmande should be ok outside.

So now I have 5 tumbling tom red (3 already in hanging baskets) for little salad toms much loved by the small person; 3 tomato roma for plum tomatoes that I was thinking of making into tomato sauce or similar. The san marzano can go with these if I get any fruit; 4 very small plants of gardener’s delight, more salad tomatoes; 1 marmande which is a beefsteak variety; and 1 golden sunrise which is a yellow salad tomato – pretty!

Unfortunatly I missed out of the black pearl tomato plants that were also at the plant swap, probably for the best but they do sound interesting. I also brought home a small african marigold and a clump of marjoram so thats cool – free plants.

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Veg box challange – week 1

Ok, so perhaps if I blog what arrives in the veg box each week and what I do with it I might manage to eat more and compost less. My veg box is from Abel and Cole because I like the fact that you can create a likes and dislikes list which affects what you receive – you won’t be sent any dislikes although there is a limit to the number of things you can add to this list. This week I have received:

  • Aubergine
  • Celery
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Courgettes
  • Chard
  • Jersey Royals
  • Radish
  • Spring greens

The things I’ll need to try hardest to use up will be the celery and the radish. Not sure what to do with them, particularly the radish.

Half the jersey royals have gone already, with fish or quorn, last weeks spring greens, carrot and asparagus for tonights dinner, yummy.

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How to eat more greens, part 2.

The chard, a few mushrooms, an onion, 3 eggs, lots of grated parmesan, black pepper and a splash of cream all went into making a veggie carbonara with pasta twirls (fusili, possibly, the young man’s favorite shape anyway). It was good, even if I do say so myself. Actually the 3 empty bowls back me up so I will do this again next time I have some chard or similar to use up. It was a nice change from the tomato based sauce I usually end up making to use up veggies.

Still don’t know what to do with the spring greens tomorrow night – I’m thinking it will be stir fryed with some chinese 5 spice or similar, because that’s what I usually do with cabbage. Perhaps inspiration will hit me at some point. I’ll let you know anyway and what arrives in the veg box.

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How to eat more greens?

I need some suggestions on how to eat more greens. We have a weekly veg box delivery, due tomorrow, and I was just having a look in the fridge to see what needs using up before it arrives and what has gone past its best and is heading for the compost bin. I’m afraid to say its mostly green leafy veg in both camps. I have some kale which will go in pasta sauce tonight and a bag of spring greens i must use up tomorrow (ideas anyone?). Unfortunatly there is a small cabbage, possibly from my mum’s veg box I don’t remember it arriving in mine, a few leaves of pak choi and a bag of ‘salad mix’ (exotic lettuce by another name) that are only fit for the compost. I thought I’d specified no lettuce because I have some growing in the garden and none of us particularly like the very peppery leaves, but this arrived last week. If my parent’s hadn’t been away I’d have probably passed it on to them.

I really ought to do better, especially when you consider there are 2 adults, 1 toddler and 2 bearded dragons in the house who all eat, or ought to eat, their greens.

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This post is rather late because we’ve had problems with our broadband connection, hopefully it should be on its way to being fixed now.

On to the compost. This weekend I spent some time clearing the side bed and siteing the second compost bin in its permanent position. Our garden is basically wider than it is long and wider at the bottom end than at the back of the house. All this extra width is the utility room side of the house so is becomming the useful part of the garden. The shed is already there and I’m clearing the bed along the fence of the very large hebe and the daffodils, wild garlic and mint will be moved. I uncovered 3 penstemons which have been cut back but left. I’ll try and take some cuttings if I want to move them but they are ok at the moment.

The original compost bin has been half emptied, mainly of the grass cuttings added recently and these have been mixed with the prunings and some other bits of leaf matter and semi composted bark from else where and filled the second bin already. Both compost bins will be next to each other eventually, I just put the first one on the flattest bit of clear ground near the back door when we got it back in february, unfortunatly it is now sliding down the slope – woops! To make sure this didn’t happen again I actually got the spirit level out at the weekend so it should be ok.

To have some free rain water for the plants there will be a small water butt from the shed roof, unfortunate placement of downpipes from the house means there are very limited places to put water butts without blocking access to patio doors, the garage or the side path. Why can’t developers consider these things when designing houses? This house is less than 20 years old so water butts and an increasing lack of water weren’t exactly new things when it was built.

The rest of the bed will have some comfrey, a rhubarb crown and whatever flowers I can fit in the gaps. I love having flowers in the house so a few I can cut would be great. Sounds like a plan!

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May Day Update

What’s happening in the garden at the beginning of May? Lots is the short answer, keep reading for the long answer.

We have reached the end of a fairly productive Bank Holiday weekend where we even had very plesant weather on saturday. Actually the weather on sunday was nice too but we were visiting family so I didn’t get out in the garden for more than a brief watering session. Today I went to the garden centre and got lots done between showers although the weather was never great and was getting chilly by half way through the afternoon but by then I had done what I needed to do so I’m happy. This is what’s currently growing (or not) outside and in…

Kitchen windowsill – This is a bit of a jungle with all the chilli and big pepper plants on one window ledge and some smaller seedlings on the other. There are 2 Aubergines (Black Beauty) growing nicely with several true leaves now; Lots of Mixed Sweet Pepper and Chilli ‘Hot’ Cayenne seedlings that could do with potting up, 3 of each that were potted up in good time and are now lovely big bushy plants with some nearly flowering and another half dozen potted up a couple of weeks ago that are growing better but will probably never catch up with the first ones; 3 Tomatoes (Gardener’s Delight) that have only just germinated, I planted 4 so the last might still appear; 2 Peas (Kelvedon Wonder) also just germinated but looking very pretty already, I’m not sure where these are going to go yet; A pot of coriander and a pot of lemon coriander seedlings just germinated to go in the tender herbs box when there is no more risk of frost; A pot of plain leaved parsley which is doing noting so far, it was started the same time as the corainders but the seed may be too old, I’ll leave it a bit longer and see what happens; A small Tabasco chilli seedling we were given which is growing nicely and will need potting up soon; 3 large chilli plants we were also given, one each of Fresno, Long Slim Cayenne and Santa Fe, which are lovely plants and 2 have tiny white start shaped flowers.

Greenhouse – 2 squash (Cobnut) and 2 cucumber (Marketmore) which will go in the 2 empty growbags when the risk of frost has passed; 3 tomato (Roma) for pots and 5 tomato (Tumbling Tom Red) for hanging baskets; A pot each of curly parsley, bush basil and sweet basil for the tender herbs box; A pot each of lovage and mint which probably should have been planted out but I’d forgotten were there; The spare oregano and chive plants from the herb box I’ve already planted up, I might need to use some of the oregano as something’s been digging in the compost in there and I think I’ve lost a couple of seedlings.

Herbs – All in pots as I have no space for a herb bed. 3 thymes together in a trough: Silver Posy, Common and Archer’s Gold; Lemon thyme; Lemon balm (Anyone noticed a lemon theme yet?); Wild strawberry; Double chamomile; Oregano, Sage and Chives together in a plastic windowbox; Lavender (Vera) which is a lovely ball shape on a short trunk. I hope I can keep its shape as it gives height to the collection of pots round the edge of the patio; 2 rosemary cuttings which are doing well; I have also found an unidentified mint, possible wild garlic and what looks like some kind of strawberry in a corner of the garden I’ll try and move into pots before the compost heap and water butt get put on top of them.

Fruit – On saturday I bought a raspberry (Malling Jewel) and a blueberry (Bluecrop) which are now in pots on the patio, exciting!

Vegetables – This is what I’m trying to grow in pots or containers. Climbing french beans in a huge pot with a bamboo wigwam, no idea if it will work, if the pot is big enough or the wigwam is tall enough but it will be fun trying, besides I couldn’t resist their lovely heart shaped leaves after listening to this episode of the AKG (I haven’t grown these from seed, I bought the plants today at the garden centre whilst failing to buy an unnecessary bag of ericaceous compost for the blueberry…); Runner beans (Hestia), this is a dwarf variety but I don’t think I have ever seen a dwarf runner bean before so I don’t know how big / tall / bushy it gets. They might need potting up again and they only have a short cane at the moment but hopefully I might get something off them; 2 cougette (All Green Bush) in a grow bag; The clove of garlic from the supermarket that was trying to grow, no idea what to do with this or even if there is anything I can do, but its a fun experiment; I have 2 shallow plastic trays I’ve lined with plastic and filled with compost and I’m trying to grow cut and come again salad in one and baby veg in the other. The radish (French Breakfast) is up and the beetroot (Boltardy) is beginning to appear but no sign of the carrot (Early Scarlet Horn) in one. I have mizuna in the other but the rest of the lettauce varieties have all failed probably because the seed wasn’t new, I need to get some more and try again; A pot of mixed lettauce plants I bought because its almost salad weather and my lettauce seeds have failed and a tray of spinach I have bought and not done anything with yet.

That is a long post and I haven’t mentioned the sunflowers, my plans for tomorrow or the millions of tiny weeds appearing in all the pots outside. I’m sure I’ll be posting again soon, there is so much going on at the moment.

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Busy birds

My order of mealworms arrived this morning from Wiggly Wigglers so the birds got an extra large breakfast. Two robins have been busy picking up beakfuls and carrying them off. Mr and Mrs Blackbird have been eating some but now there is a gang of starlings stuffing their beaks full. I wouldn’t mind if they were eating them but they are dropping most of them so I have been attempting to selectively scare them off, Mr Blackbird is helping. I was hoping the tits would have some but perhaps they aren’t happy with the feeder on the ground. I’ll put some on the tray of the feeding station next time I go out.

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Garden visit

Firstly let me say sorry this post isn’t as good as the first version I wrote which my computer lost, it never is when you have to write the same thing again is it?

Wednesday we visited The Manor House Garden while it was open as part of the National Garden Scheme, a scheme which opens private gardens to the public for charity. I love visiting gardens through this scheme, they are ‘ordinary’ gardens rather than gardens planned and maintained with the public in mind. Thats not to say this garden was ordinary, most of the gardens open aren’t ordinary at all, but it is someone’s backgarden and often they are more the sort of size of most people’s backgardens.

This garden was a little jem, it had only been rediscovered about 20 years ago and has been carefully restored to the original Gertrude Jekyll plans since. There was a lovely wild garden, some beautifully planted walls and a rose garden with some interesting ideas for plants to put with the roses in our garden.

Another feature of NGS gardens is often good cake, and this one did not disapoint and we have a lovely afternoon tea with tiny sandwiches and yummy cake. It wasn’t their fault I only got half a slice of chocolate cake, the little man thought it was yummy as well and ate the other half.

He liked the pond with huge goldfish and the tiny bantam hens best, they are a little more dynamic than plants. I actually was rather taken with these cute little hens, peking bantams, and could quite easily see a couple of them pottering round our backgarden. The original thought was hens would be difficult to get someone to look after if we went away but I think we are already past that point so maybe we could reconsider. They were such characters with their little feathery feet.

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Another bird update

After seeing 3 goldfinches at the same time, I fairly quickly saw 4 at once. I think its two pairs as there are occasional scuffles but most of the time they tolerate each other probably because there are 4 perches on the feeders they like – thistle seeds and sunflower hearts.

I have also started putting live mealworms out to see whether that would tempt anybody down to the patio. The flat feeder on the feeding station doesn’t seem to get any blackbirds or robins on it, I wonder if the feeders hanging nearby put them off. Its only the starlings that ever eat anything there. The feeder on the patio took a couple of days for the birds to find. The first day the mealworms were escaping all over the patio until a greedy starling ate them all up. I think the blackbird has taken a couple and this morning a very busy robin kept coming to take a mealworm back over the fence – hopefully that means theres a nest. Unfortunatly the starling has been back and eaten all the mealworms now so I might put some more out again in a bit.

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Thyme in the garden

Last week we visited the RHS Garden at Wisley which was a lovely day out despite the rain. We didn’t have time to see all of it and some areas weren’t very full at the moment, including the vegetable gardens that I was particularly interested in seeing, so we will have to go back again. It did give me hope that even tho I haven’t got my raised bed yet it isn’t going to be too late to grow a reasonable amount this year as there isn’t a huge amount going on in a veg garden at the moment.

We particularly liked the glasshouse, and not just because it was raining outside, and the trials field was very interesting. The small one thought the children’s lunch box was very good and he would be correct, actually all the food was good. It turned out to be a good place to take him as he had plenty of space to run around in and wear himself out – he even asked to go back in the pushchair at one point.

On the way out is the plant centre which has a huge number of plants. I will confess to not looking round the outside bits much at all except the herbs as it was heaving it down with rain, but I did buy 3 different thymes, a chamomile and a wild strawberry and I actually thought their prices were pretty good. Certainly the 3 small thymes were the nicest I’ve seen for sale as I have been looking for some for a little while and they were less than £2 each. I have seen plants for sale for a lot more than that that didn’t look half as nice.

We will definatly be going back to see the changes in the garden over the seasons as we all enjoyed it as a day out, the plant centre was great, it is fairly convienent to get too and the cake was good.

Today I planted the three thymes up into a small terracotta trough. One is common thyme, one is lemon thyme with a yellow foliage and the third is a silver foliage one. Yes I have their names on labels, but those are in the trough with the plants and that is outside. Sorry, that isn’t very helpful really. Anyway, it looks good.

This will be part of my herb garden in pots when I get some more plants big enough to use. So far I only have one other trough with tiny chive, oregano and sage plants I have grown from seed, a rosemary grown from a cutting and a lemon balm I bought earlier on. I have curly parsley, bush basil and sweet basil seedlings to plant up soon into a second trough, probably with the chamomile, and lovage and mint seedlings which will be in individual pots because they are thugs. I’d love a little standard bay tree clipped into a ball but will have to save up for that as I don’t have the patience to grow that from seed or even train one from a small plant. I’m hoping to plant some coriander seeds soon as well and that will probably be all I have space and tubs for at the moment. At least with pots I can expand it without running out of flower bed space, I just need to buy more pots. Hopefully I can keep the pots near the back door along the sheltered south facing wall during the cooler months and move the ones that don’t like it so hot in summer when I won’t mind going further to pick them for cooking. I can also bring in any tender plants and have fresh herbs all year. Thats the theory anyway.

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