Wednesday 29 July 2009

A Welly Wet Day

It is pouring down outside. We wanted to go out and give our peas some support tonight but it is far too wet. It is very frustrating because between the unpacking, washing, ironing and our Little Garden Helpers full social calendar, we have been unable to get stuck into the garden this week. It really doesn't take long for the weeds to take over and for things to start looking tatty when you are not tending the beds every day. It makes me realise how much we do in the garden even on those days when we aren't really working in the garden. Pulling up the odd weed, flicking away some pests, tightening the netting, helping the beans find their support again after a windy night. It makes all the difference.

If it is still raining tomorrow we may have to make it a welly day. Garden Girl and Garden Boy can make mud pies and splash in puddles while I pull up weeds and stick stakes in the ground but lets all hope for some sunny weather over the weekend. Uncle M and Auntie H are getting married on Friday and I'm not sure wellies will cut it.

Sunday 26 July 2009

A Week in North Yorkshire

We have just returned from a lovely week, camping in North Yorkshire. We jumped up and down in the River Swale and caught stones in our fishing nets. We watched the birds of prey fly at Thorpe Perrow and meandered amongst the trees. We went back in time to meet the Vikings of York and explored the National Railway Museum. We headed out on a real steam train to Leyburn for a picnic and a visit to the sweet shop. We survived the Forbidden Corner and took some time to meet the deer and enjoy the walled herb garden in the Tupgill Estate. Then finally we met up with family to stroll around the beautiful water gardens and abbey ruins at Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey.

Garden Girl and Garden Boy were happy and energetic. Uncle H joined us for much of the week and made Garden Girl's holiday by agreeing to do 'One, Two, Three. Jump' at her every request. She also loved it at Thorpe Perrow arboretum where the tree canopies became ceilings for her play houses. Garden Boy loved the Railway Museum. He didn't know which train to look at first. But he was most excited by the train ride. He jumped up and down with excitement for the whole trip, pointing to things out of the window and providing us all with wonderful train sound effects.

Despite all the late nights our two little garden helpers seemed to have a surplus of energy all week and Garden Dad and I returned yesterday, exhausted but with very happy memories. Today I have been unpacking and wading through a pile of washing almost bigger than the pile of runner beans Garden Dad picked. Garden Girl went to investigate the garden and was delighted to find a handful of blueberries waiting for her. There were courgettes, marrows, cucumbers and tomatoes desperate to be picked and a little repair work needed on the runner beans where one of the strings had collapsed. The peas have been growing and are now in need of support so I will be heading out to get some bamboo poles this week and the weeds are back so there will be a busy week ahead.

Friday 17 July 2009

Tomatoes Are Red!

Garden Girl broke up from Pre-School yesterday. As a special end of term treat they had invited the local police to visit with their car. All the other children went outside to sit in a real police car, watch the flashing blue light and hear the siren whirr. Garden Girl was suspicious of strange people so stayed inside and drew pictures of wild animals for Garden Boy. This cautious behaviour extends to various situations, be it an unknown person, an unfamiliar place, a bigger climbing frame and today a yellow tomato!

Daddy; 'So have you seen the yellow tomatoes?'
Garden Girl; 'No Daddy. Tomatoes are red.'
Daddy; 'Not all tomatoes are red. We have grown some yellow ones in our garden.'
Garden Girl; 'No. Tomatoes are red. I don't like yellow ones.'
Daddy; 'Just try one.'
Garden Girl; 'I think I am filled up.'
Daddy; 'They taste good'
Garden Girl; 'I've finished.'

Perhaps she thought we were trying to trick her into eating something she doesn't like by calling it a tomato or perhaps the lack of any variety in supermarkets has taught her that tomatoes are red, have always been red and always will be red. I'm not surprised though. It was only recently that I discovered yellow tomatoes existed. This was our first harvest of yellow tomatoes so hopefully over the next few weeks they will become more familiar and she will happily devour them. Or if not, at least there will be one variety of tomato I will stand a chance of being able to eat before little hands scoop them up!

Thursday 16 July 2009

Name and Shame It...

Does anyone know what this weed is?

It has small yellow flowers that look a bit like buttercups and it has spread itself all across our herb bed, tangling itself around the herbs and 'sticking' itself into the soil at various spots it presumably feels are good places to grow.

I dislike weeding at the best of times but this one has frustrated more than most. It just goes on and on and on.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

An Interview with Garden Girl

About four weeks ago Garden Girl, a two year old lover of gardens, readily agreed to this interview but her schedule was very busy so I went with her into the garden and sitting on a plastic slide I shouted the questions out as she ran around in circles, giggling.

So what is your favourite part of your garden?
With you, planting things

And what do you like doing most in the garden?
Eating my plants

Which is your favourite plant to eat?
Strawberries (Garden Girl takes a break from running in circles at this point to rub her tummy and lick her lips).

You like to help Mummy and Daddy in the garden, but which is your favourite job?
Planting. (A long thoughtful pause follows this response which is followed by a grin and another single word... Strawberries.)

You also enjoy playing in the garden. Do you have a favourite toy?
My slide. No, my scooter. Daddy can you get my scooter out of the garage please? Daddy, my scooter.

You have lots of birds, insects and animals visiting your garden. Do you have a favourite?
Yes. Garden Boy. He is a garden animal.

Thank you Garden Girl. Now, will you take a photograph of your five favourite things in the garden and tell me why you like them?
Give me the camera. Let me hold it. Let me hold it. Daddy! Give me the camera.

Strawberries - because they are red and juicy and for eating.

Scarecrow - because I made it at the museum.

Tomatoes - because they are red and juicy.

Cucumbers - because they are green and yummy in my tummy.

Sweetcorn - because they are yummy and yellow and for eating.

The interview ended with a battle to reclaim the camera but offering the hosepipe as an alternative soon did the trick and I left Garden Girl happily watering the vegetables alongside Garden Dad.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Garden Creatures

Over the last week we have been hunting in our garden for wildlife. We found many little creatures, some of them welcome and some of them not...

Bees humming around the lavender and hovering above the grass,

Caterpillars munching through our brassica's,

Pretty butterflies fluttering around the cabbage netting to find a way in, but eventually giving up and settling down to smell the lavender,

Ladybirds feasting on the Black Fly and saving our Runner Beans,
A Frog, hiding behind a garden fork, as the last of his cover is removed when Garden Dad finishes the final raised bed,
and a beautiful pink fairy spreading her magic all around the garden.

Friday 10 July 2009

A Treasure Hunt

The chicken pox is back, but Garden Boy is being brave. Yesterday he wanted to be cuddled all the time so I suspected he was about to break out in spots and when he woke at 5am this morning he was covered in them. But the general feeling of being unwell seems to have disappeared with the arrival of the spots so he has been happy playing for most of the day.

Garden Girl, on the other hand, was feeling hard done by this morning. We always visit a local museum on Fridays to paint, do some craft, dress up and take a look around but due to Garden Boy's chicken pox she had to stay at home. As a result we have been sticking and gluing for much of the day, making a sequin bookmark and an alien card with googly eyes.

After we had glued our fingers together and made ourselves look like we had a terrible peeling skin condition, we decided to head outdoors and pick some vegetables for dinner. So far, along with the raspberries and strawberries, we have harvested a few cucumbers and courgettes, but today we had a real treasure hunt and gathered enough booty to make our very first fully homegrown meal (save only for the olive oil and black pepper seasoning).
I boiled the courgette, carrot and beetroot until they were soft. I then roasted these, along with the tomatoes and red onion, tossing them in olive oil seasoned with black pepper and freshly chopped oregano. Meanwhile I boiled the potatoes and runner beans. When cooked, I tossed them in olive oil with finely chopped spring onion. A simple recipe that allowed us to taste the flavour of the vegetables and they were delicious.
So despite the chicken pox, it was a very rewarding and enjoyable day. Garden Boy and Garden Girl enjoyed revealing the carrots and beetroot and picking the tomatoes, (I am surprised we had any left to eat at dinner time) but the most exciting bit for them was searching in the soil for potatoes and then washing all the vegetables for me afterwards.

By the end of the day Garden Girl had forgiven Garden Boy for keeping her at home and they are both looking forward to going on a treasure hunt again tomorrow.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

How NOT to Plant Jerusalem Artichokes

Way way back at the beginning of the year we took delivery of all our vegetable seeds. Amongst these seeds we also received some Jerusalem Artichoke tubers. These funny looking things came with a warning. PLANT THESE AS SOON AS YOU RECEIVE THEM. There was also some additional instructions that suggested the tubers be placed in moist compost in a dark, cool place for a very short time if the bed was not quite ready.

Fast forward to July and those tubers, carefully placed in their moist compost were, until Saturday, still there. All of them (I think about eight) in one nine inch pot.

The reason for this is that they were due to be placed in the raised bed that we only got around to preparing on Saturday. Now despite us not having prepared their bed these tubers were not to be discouraged from growing. Eventually we noticed signs of green shoots above the compost. 'Oh dear - We must hurry and get that bed ready' we thought to ourselves. But the thought stayed put as we worked elsewhere in the garden, until eventually the Jerusalem artichokes had grown as tall as Garden Girl. Not bad considering their roots had no where to go.

The poor things had been fighting so hard to find somewhere else to go they had cracked the pot at the base. Not that this mattered. So pot bound were these plants, that the only hope I had of getting them out of their pot was to cut them out.

I then debated whether to plant the lot in one big bunch, letting them fight for space themselves or try to separate them. I opted for the latter in the hope that some would survive.

Garden Girl helped prize the plants apart with her garden fork and this is what we found;

From here I carefully separted them into eight smaller bunches and planted them out in their new home.
They fought so hard to grow and survive in their tiny pot, I hope they can recover from a bit of root hacking. And if not, at least I tried.

And before I go; if you are sitting comfortably and fancy investigating some blogs you haven't visited before, then why not take a trip to the British Mummy Bloggers Carnival this month. You will find some great links over at BritsinBosnia, this months carnival hostess.

Monday 6 July 2009

Fruit Bush Envy

A long while ago I got fruit bush envy. A friend of ours had bought themselves a blueberry bush and I wanted one.

Garden Girl and Garden Boy both adore blueberries. We cannot visit a supermarket without buying more and they last not much longer than a day. Getting a blueberry bush would save us some money, I reasoned. Garden Girl and Garden Boy would delight in having a ready supply in the garden and they are very attractive plants, adding a lovely rich blue colour to the garden. If ever there was a convincing arguement for buying a plant, it was all there.

So I bought one.

Never mind that we will still spend as much money on blueberries because our Little Garden Helpers will simply eat more. The blueberries will all be eaten straight from the plant throughout the day but come dinner time they will still want blueberries.

Never mind that the lovely rich blue fruit on the plant will 'myseriously' disappear the moment it turns blue and before we have had a chance to appreciate the plant's visual delights.

Never mind that we had no where to put it.

So now we have a very small raised bed, attached to the end of the last raised bed we built, home only to the blueberry bush. Not only did this special bush recieve its very own bed but it got its very own soil as well. It is a bit picky and needed acid compost which we duly gave it. But it must be happy in its new home, as within hours of being planted the first fruit started to turn blue.

'Its turning blue, its turning blue' exclaimed Garden Girl jumping up and down with excitement. At least the arguement for delighting our Little Garden Helpers still stands!

Saturday 4 July 2009

Attacking the Sage

According to my latest research (or a few minutes flicking through a gardening book) July is the time to cut back your Sage, before they flower. So, while Garden Dad dug over the final bed to be planted with edibles, Garden Girl and I made bunches of Sage to dry out in the garage. Our Sage had taken over the herb bed and was starting to stifle other plants, so I showed no mercy and hacked it back despite the gardening book telling me to prune it lightly.

There was so much Sage available for drying I was quite ruthless in discarding leaves that weren't at their best. I also made sure all signs of black fly were removed from any of the leaves I was keeping. Garden Girl gathered the chosen ones together and we tied then up in bunches which are now hanging upside down from the garage roof.

Maybe now the lovely varigated sage will have room to grow and spread and the lemon balm will start to flourish.

Friday 3 July 2009


...they keep biting me when I water the vegetables in the evening. And there has been a lot of watering this week. Normally Garden Dad and I share the watering between us but this week we have had two gardens to tend as we have been returning the favour and watering Zooarchaeologists garden while they are away.

So while Garden Dad has taken charge of Zooarchaeologists garden I have been responsible for our own and the mosquitos are loving it. I suppose I should be grateful they are munching on me and not our vegetables like the black fly, but my legs are starting to feel as itchy as Garden Girl's chicken pox. Garden Dad seems to have escaped their attacks. Is that because he isn't as tasty as me? Or does Zooarchaeologist not have any mosquitos in her garden?

When I was younger mosquitoes were an exotic insect, only to be worried about if you went over the channel. Wasps were the biggest nuisance at home and when we were on holiday in glorious Scotland, midgies were the worst we had to deal with. This could just be that growing up I lived in the colder North West and I now live in the South East, but I suspect that it is only in recent years that mosquitoes have colonised the UK in large numbers.

With frequent reports concerning the declining population of bees and the rise in the mosquito population over recent years I have started to wonder what other changes in the insect world have been occuring. Have you noticed an increase or decline in insect populations in your gardens?

Thursday 2 July 2009

Spare Foam Pipe Insulation Cane Toppers

Here's how I used some spare foam pipe insulation as a cane topper. You'll need
  • spare foam pipe insulation
  • a knife
Step 1 - find your spare foam pipe insulation

Step 2 - cut the end off the spare foam pipe insulation

Step 3 - add a couple of notches to the spare foam pipe insulation

Step 4 - put the spare foam pipe insulation on the top of the cane

  • Knives can be sharp, it may be best to make your Spare Foam Pipe Insulation Cane Toppers when the little ones are in bed.
  • Spare Foam Pipe Insulation Cane Toppers can be fun toys. Garden Boy used one as a football and Garden Girl played with one until it snapped in half.