Archive | Work Life Balance RSS for this section

Growing a special bean in time for Christmas

harlow-carr-christmas-greenhouseA greenhouse at RHS Harlow Carr last December

After keeping this on the down low for months I’m very excited to reveal that Adam and I have our very own little bean growing, due in December!

It’s one of the reasons I’ve been blogging less over the last few months, I was literally too tired to read blogs and even muster up a blog post to begin with. Then, like the garden, I started ‘blooming’ but now I’m just exhausted all over again!

I’ve encountered another slight problem too – gardening when pregnant…

broad bean

Before I knew I was pregnant I was in amongst the weeds, digging and planting and not thinking anything of it. When I found out, someone told me about Toxoplasmosis and suggested that my gardening days were over until next year. No chance!!

We do see a lot of cats at the allotment so I’ve been very careful. I make sure I always wear gloves and wash my hands thoroughly afterwards. I’ve also avoided picking and eating fruit whilst pottering. Now I take it home for a wash first.

I’ve been spending time in the greenhouse on seed sowing and potting on duties, container gardening, some light weeding and cutting flowers. This is a big change for us as I normally do my fair share of that plus the digging and veg planting while Adam builds things. This year he’s had to do pretty much everything apart from pick flowers and light weeding! No wonder he’s still not finished the shed!

gardening pregnantHere I am late spring/early summer, trying to look energetic. My bump has grown considerably since then!

Gardening is something I couldn’t give up easily and has really kept me going through the nausea and tiredness. The garden has been a wonderful place to relax and switch off but it’s also allowed me to stretch my legs and get some all important fresh air.

I’m having to be far more organised this year because of the little bean. There can be no last minute bulb planting or late night gardening in November! I’ve chosen my winter garden plants already and I do hope that we have some nice Autumn weather so I can still spend time out there pottering – keeping active is very good for pregnancy.

harlow-carr-christmas-1Natural Christmas decoration ideas from Harlow Carr last year

Since our baby is due in December, hopefully in time for Christmas (if he or she is late the birth could be on Christmas Day), I’ve entered this blog post into a competition on Dotcomgiftshop to help everyone get into the Christmas mood. I have to admit that I don’t usually think about Christmas this early but this year I really have to. It just won’t be possible for me to do my usual last minute stint round the shops on Christmas Eve!

I’ve been eyeing up a few presents for people on the internet and I’ve also gone ‘nesting’ crazy and can’t wait to decorate my house to make it all homely and cosy while I’m waiting for the bean to arrive. I also fancy decorating my garden too, just like they do at Harlow Carr! Cute twinkling lights and lanterns have never been more appealing. These are some of my favourite Christmas ideas for gifts and decorations on the Dotcomgiftshop website.

dotcomgiftshop-christmas-gifts-decorations

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The competition prize is an iPad Mini and I do hope I get everyone in the mood for Christmas because I’d simply LOVE one of those! I have a laptop and iPad from work that I use now but in a few weeks time when I start maternity leave I have to hand it all back – how will I cope! So an iPad Mini is No 1 on my Christmas list because it will be the perfect size and so handy for me to keep in touch with my favourite blogs, order my baby supplies and google like crazy when I have no idea what I’m meant to be doing with the new bean! I suspect I’ll also be reading a lot more blogs about gardening with kids too.

harlow-carr-christmas-2

I can’t wait to have a little one to share the garden with :)

harlow-carr-christmas-3

Have you organised your winter planting schemes already? Do you prepare early or are you a last minute gardener and shopper?! Are you in the mood for Christmas?

 

A week in Provence – the ‘no gardens’

provence

I’ve just returned from a much needed holiday with Adam in the beautiful Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France. As well as enjoying typical Provencal 3 hour lunches I’ve also been admiring a multitude of gardens.

When garden writer Louisa Jones first moved to Provence she was told there were ‘no gardens’ apart from certain famous historic properties but for her first book she visited around 300 gardens and has since written many more books about the beauty of Mediterranean gardening.

french-garden

A while back I wrote about my container garden at the front of my house. I felt that some people in my neighbourhood must think they have ‘no garden’ as they choose to do nothing with their space, whereas some people plant theirs up with lovely displays.

I spotted the same thing in France and I found the most inspiring gardens in the most unassuming places. My favourite being the pavement gardens – or the ‘no gardens’, as I now like to call them.

mouans-sartoux-street

mouans-sartoux-garden-3

mouans-sartoux-village

oleander

mouans-sartoux-front-garden

mouans-sartoux-container-gardening

cat-deterrant

I think the water bottles are used to deter cats. Also handy to give the plants a quick watering.

container-garden

All the photos in this post are taken in the little village of Mouans-Sartoux. From the main road you would not know that in the heart of the village lies these colourful narrow pedestrian streets where the doorsteps, windowsills, walls and pavements are planted with stunning visual effect.

I loved walking through the streets getting ideas for my own garden.

mouans-sartoux-gardening

mouans-sartoux-garden-2

mouans-sartoux-for-sale

table-garden

Arranging pots on a table provides height and shade.

simple-front-door-garden

The wonderfully trained foliage above provides the perfect place for a sit down in the shade.

purple-house

For the colour co-ordinated gardeners out there the purple theme above was less than twee.

provencal-garden

pretty-garden

mouans-sartoux-window

front-door-garden

Even a green foliage garden has huge ‘no-garden’ appeal.

provence-village

street-gardening

I never imagined that plants I perceived to be large garden plants would work so well on the kerbside. Large pots of oleander provide a stunningly colourful display.

oleander-france

mouans-sartoux-palm

Even the simpler options had an appeal that I found most chic.

minimal-garden

mouans-sartoux-pelargonium

mouans-sartoux-container-garden-plants

I love the little bamboo trellis in the pot below.

provence-contaner-garden

All the no-gardens I saw, from the crammed full to the elegantly simple had a style and beauty that I just want to recreate back home.

Have you been to Provence? What do you think of these ‘no-gardens’?

 

Published from the plot! Taking time out in the garden

greenhouse

I started my blog for many reasons, one being a reminder to switch off from work and concentrate on the things I enjoy in my life.

Gardening helps me to achieve a healthy work-life balance and it hasn’t been a problem lately. In fact I’ve been outside so much that my blogging balance has taken a serious hit! I also work for a much better company now and I’m not subjected to 24/7 corporate bashing anymore and I find it far easier to leave work behind.

Talking of which, this week I do feel in need of a rest, I want a break! So I’ve taken myself off to the plot with Molly (my newish dog) to do some serious chilling out.

greenhouse
Can you see Molly sniffing around under the turkish bed?

Adam’s been building a new shed (wait till you see this ‘shed’ – it’s more of a summer house/chalet!) so there’s bits and bobs of rubble all over the place waiting to be re-homed.

I’ve done some pottering and I’ve also been chatting to my fellow ‘allotmenteers’ Norman and Bill. Oh to be retired and do this every day!

allotment messI’m still waiting for my strawberries to turn red in amongst all the rubble.

I’ve also been sitting in the sunshine with my feet up, watching all the bees doing their work in my  higgledy-piggledy wildlife border.

wildlife garden

gooseberriesMy wildlife border started out as my fruit border but now we mix the soft fruits in with perennials and annuals, or in the case of the foxgloves – biennials.

I’ve lost count watching the bumblebees buzzing in and out of the foxgloves.

foxgloves

I loved sitting and chilling but as usual the British weather has brought the clouds, so I’ve decided to catch up with my blog.

In my last garden update I said I was having trouble finding time to blog and joked about an internet connection in the greenhouse! Well, today I’ve actually made that happen.

I’ve plugged my iPhone into my laptop and turned on its wireless hotspot. I’ve  successfully uploaded my photos and typed up this blog post on-line from the new shed! Let’s see what happens when I click publish…

new shed being builtA quick glimpse of the new ‘shed’. We still need to paint it and Adam wants to do something amazing with the roof! Watch this space!

I could really get used to this lifestyle! If only the ‘shed’ was my full time home office.

Have you ever thought about working from the garden? Do you find time to chill out and enjoy your outdoor space?

The allotment in June – what’s growing on?!

allotment_may

The weather has been amazing! I hope it’s been good with you too. As a result of this I’ve been busy in my greenhouse, garden and veggie patches and I’ve neglected blogging for some time. I’ve literally been getting home from work, gardening and sleeping for weeks now. Great work life balance, but not so great for the work blog life balance!

However, I’ve been given a bit of a kick start back into things via Michelle at Veg Plotting who’s inspired a load of bloggers to get involved in the The Bloggers’ Cut for the Chelsea Fringe 2013.

I’d never heard of the Chelsea Fringe before but it sounds cool! Definitely a people’s event with a focus on the environment, community and art and more importantly participation. So over on Veg Plotting you can see a number of bloggers’ links sharing their recent exploits in their gardens.

I actually started this post last week, so this is what my garden and allotment looked like back then. The only difference over the week is that my alliums are in full flower, the clematis and the aquilegias are out and everything is really coming on. The warm weather combined with a good dose of rain last week provided the perfect growing conditions.

tulips_at_allotment

The tulips are still flowering at home and at the allotment and they’ve been outstanding this year. As well as some new bulbs we planted last Autumn the tulips I planted under my trees at least 5 years ago are still going strong and just get bigger and better with age.

tulips_under_elder

I planted them under my trees after a visit to Levens Hall in Cumbria where they had planted perfectly spaced big red tulips under the topiary. It reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland and I just loved the red/green combination. Mine aren’t perfectly spaced but then neither is anything in my garden, I just took the inspiration and made it my own.

tulips_under_fruit_trees

The bulbs have multiplied over the years and the tulip heads are literally huge! Many people replace tulips each year because they just don’t last but some are perennial and will actually naturalise, how long for I do not know. On my recent trip to Great Dixter, head gardener Fergus Garret was talking about some research they’re doing on tulips and trying to work out how to tell if they’re perennial or not. He suggested that the larger the bulb the more likely they are to keep coming back. Sounds about right since these were huge bulbs to begin with.

tulips_under_fruit_trees_2

Veggie wise I still have a lot of seedlings in the greenhouse but outside things are coming along nicely too. My potatoes are all through, onions are growing, broad beans have been flowering for a while but still seem shorter than usual and my peas are growing nicely, but not as good as Bill’s (my allotment neightbour)! The fruits are doing very well and I also have tons of broccoli, kale, squash, courgettes, pumpkins and beetroot.

In the greenhouse I have chillies, sweet peppers, cucumbers, spring onions, my pink onions are still in there, half my giant leeks (the other half are outside), tomatoes, celery and probably some other stuff that I’ve forgotten about! No crops as yet apart from some small broad beans, lettuce and spring onions.

greenshouse_view_maybroadbeansinside_the_greenhouse_maypotatoes

I also have tons of sweet peas and begonias ready for planting out. I’ve kept the sweet peas outside for a while now so they don’t go soft. I did a few sweet pea experiments this year and found that the seeds sown before winter that came up in the cold greenhouse around February are the strongest, biggest and best looking! I think they like a bit of a cold start perhaps?

greenhouse_and_shed

Back to the other theme of The Bloggers’ Cut, Michelle wants to know what our favourite kind of cake for gardening is. This weekend I enjoyed eating some jam and cream doughnuts but I’m very easy going when it comes to cake and will eat pretty much anything.

Something that sprung to mind, however, was a very special cake I made last year during the Queen’s Jubilee bank holiday – ‘Herman the German Friendship Cake‘. I was reminded of this because Adam started a bank holiday project last week but was still finishing up this weekend – our new shed! I’m so excited! Anyway, last year we had some of our dearest friends staying, the weather was gorgeous and Adam started his first bank holiday project, the appropriately named ‘Jubilee Bench’.

He finished the bench in time for us to share a lovely BBQ and to finish off Herman. Have you ever heard of this cake? I was given a yeasty cake mix and told to ‘feed it’ regularly then bake it. I have to say it was one of thee most amazing cakes I’ve ever had!!!! We all loved it. Here’s a photo from that awesome day (Adam on the left) where we celebrated the arrival of the Jubilee Bench. Sorry no photos of the cake, it all went down just far too quick.

jubilee_bench

How are things getting on in your garden? Have you been enjoying some good weather? Have you started any new projects or perhaps you’ve baked a cake?

Container gardening in my small front garden

pots-colour

I think some people on my street think that they don’t have a front garden. The council must think this too as they don’t supply us with bins for garden waste, yet they supply the houses just around the corner. When I moved here the neighbours across the street had an amazing container garden and I was keen to have a go too. The first thing I did was rip out the elephants ears to the left of my door, pebble it and add a bench. I left the honeysuckle, clematis, climbing rose and skimmia. Then I added the pots. I grew my first ever tomatoes right there too while I was waiting for my allotment.

front_of_house_plant_pots

I moved in during the Autumn and I planted a load of bulbs. I was so happy when they emerged the following spring and my little garden was full of colour. Spring is extra special to me now because it reminds me of that first year. I do something a bit different at the front every year now and I still look forward to seeing what will emerge each spring. Adam also enjoys planting up the pots and we planted most of these while night gardening last year because we had so little time at the weekends.

containers

To the right of my door we plant into the ground and have a mixture of spring and summer bulbs plus perennials and grasses.

front_garden

hyacinths-and-tulips  panzies

Look at how this little pot has come on in the last few weeks.

pansies_2

pots_2

pots_3

pots_colour2  pots_steps2  rose

I love my Skimmia Japonica (below), it was tiny when I moved in and has really flourished.

skimmia_japonica

tulips

Even a house with no garden can have a window box – providing there’s a window ledge! We really enjoy planting up matching boxes for the front windows and changing them throughout the seasons. I’m really happy with the trailing pansies this year.

window_box_phase2

My friend recently said that she couldn’t grow anything on her shady patio, but I look at her patio and think that I could do so much! I’ve bought her a book about plants for shady areas for her birthday so she will either love me for that or it will live on her bookshelf forever! My front garden is south facing so I have the opposite problem and there are some plants that just dry out and bake but trial and error over the years has told me what works and what doesn’t and I just relocate plants from the front if I feel they’re struggling.

pots_tulips_mini_daffs

So for anyone who says their garden is too small, too shady, too sunny, needs too much watering I think perhaps they’re not so interested in gardening because where there’s a will, there’s a way. After all, nature has a plant for all these ‘problem’ areas. Even in the height of summer the plants in my sunny front garden thrive in the pots with just a quick watering in the morning and evening.

Have you got a too shady or too sunny area in your garden and how have you got around it? Do you enjoy container gardening?

Growing and going local – the journey begins

horsforth_honeyHorsforth Blossom Honey. Bill described his honey as being made by bees in his ‘own garden’.

A few weeks ago, disgruntled with not having my own crops to eat I set myself a challenge to buy more local produce. I want to be able to trace the source of my food. With my own harvest incredibly low at the minute I’m keen to buy veg from local suppliers who’ve put the effort in to grow their own.

Well, I’ve found it. Not just vegetables, I’ve found the lot. You name it, it’s being sold at a market about 2 miles away from me!

b_whitely_stall_horsforth_marketeggs_horsforth_marketAmazing eggs from Church View Farm

Running since October 2012 Horsforth farmers market takes place on the first Saturday of each month and it’s brilliant! All the sellers are local to Yorkshire and some are local to Horsforth itself.

I discovered that Leeds has a few farmers markets and to help me remember the dates I’ve popped a recurring ‘appointment’ into my outlook calendar.

I thought my challenge was going to be really tough. First off, I thought it would be difficult to source local suppliers and secondly, I thought it would be hard to fit the gathering of the local produce into my busy life, but it’s not.

oragnic_pantry_horsforth_market‘Proper fresh veg’ from The Organic Pantry

When I was growing up I enjoyed shopping on a Saturday morning in town with my mum. We’d visit the butchers, the bakers and the veg shop and she would chat to tons of people along the way. Now I’m the one chatting to the locals and having a great time. A morning at the market beats doing ‘a big shop’ at the supermarket hands down.

trade_craft_fair_trade_horsforth_market

The market also has a fair trade stall run by a really friendly bunch of people and I bought myself a Traidcraft version of nutella. Ok, so it might not be made in Yorkshire but I still know where it’s from and I know that my money goes to the people who made it.

perenials_b_whitely_horsforth_market

I was thrilled to meet Vicky from B. Whiteley Farm Shop who had a stall selling plants and veg. The farm is about 2 miles from my house in the opposite direction but I never knew they were there. They grow and sell veg, have their own hen eggs and also run a plant nursery.

I purchased my first rhubarb plant from Vicky’s stall and she gave me some top tips about not harvesting it for a couple of years and to plant it into some well fertilised soil. She also advised me against forcing the rhubarb because it weakens the plant, it’s better to just let it grow naturally and do its thing.

rhubarb_horsforth_marketraspberry_canes_b_whitely_horsforth_marketseed_potatoes_b_whitely_horsforth_marketGreat selection of plants and veg from Vicky at B. Whiteley Farm, she only brings the veg she’s grown herself.

I got some top tips from the apple juice stall about what I can mix with my apples and how to make an elder flower syrup and freeze it until I need it. My two favourite hobbies, gardening and eating are combined at the market.

apple_juice_horsforth_marketApple juices from Yorkshire Orchard

I read a cool article recently where the writer claims that Leeds has some great organic shops but they’re all rather ‘top secret’. I think this sums up how I feel about all that I’ve newly discovered, it’s been right on my doorstep all along but I just never knew about it.

I found all the produce at the market very reasonably priced and I just hope I’m in Leeds for the next one in April so I can go back for a natter and a re-stock.

Do you shop for local products? Do you find that it fits into your lifestyle?

Spring is nearly here – what’s growing on?

adam_in_greenhouse

I’m so happy that spring is round the corner but in terms of it ‘feeling like spring’ I’m as confused as the weather! It’s snowing one minute and mild and sunny the next. Very random! On the milder days it’s been great getting outside into the garden. Adam’s been tidying the greenhouse and I’ve been doing the weeding and having a general potter around. The weeds have really started growing now and I enjoy trying to get rid of them as soon as possible.

weeds-3What is this plant? Is it a weed?

My soil is lovely and I wonder if the minimal digging we did in the autumn combined with a bit of mulching has helped it achieve a soft and crumbly texture. I really can’t remember what it was like this time last year – warmer and drier I think so I’m not going to be able to pin point exactly why my soil texture feels great but it’s very easy to spruce up and keep neat, which is good in my books!

broadbeans-under_netbox

A few weeks back I planted out my broad beans. I started them off indoors and then popped them into the greenhouse in big tubs until I felt the weather was a bit more stable. I’ve covered them with a net-box and sprinkled coffee grounds around them. One of my favourite local Cafes – The Cheerful Chili gives them away and they claim it works! So far, so good.

tulip_bulbs

Inside the greenhouse I have pots and pots of tulips. When they come into flower I’ll take them outside and most of them will go by my front door. I also have my ornamental kale which has bolted a bit. I’ve never grown this plant before so I’ve got no idea what I’m doing with it to be honest!

ornamental_kale

mini_lettuce

Inside the house things are also growing and I’m starting to sow all my seeds for March.

My lettuces are still tiny but looking really healthy and I expect to be potting it on very soon and starting my next batch.

mini_lettuce_2chilies_sowing_2

A couple of weeks ago I sowed my chilies in expandable coir pellets. I bought a kit with the propagator included for around £4.95, which is quite expensive compared to a big bag of seed sowing compost. I’ve never used these pellets before but they seem to be really popular. My chilies are still germinating (they take ages) so I have no real view yet on how good these modules are. They are extremely quick, easy and clean to use though, which is a bonus. I just hope the seeds grow well, I’m hoping they’ll pop through any day now.

mammoth_leeks

My mammoth leeks are potted on and still look like little stalks. I’ve never grown this large variety before so I’m just keeping them in the light, well watered and I’m hoping for the best!

iris_march

My irises have been lovely this year but some are already on their way out, which is quite sad. I have another variety to come up next and I can’t wait for my daffodils and tulips to flower. The lavender is looking very healthy and once spring is established I’ll be looking forward to that taking hold.

I spent the day at Harlow Carr on a photography course today. I discovered that I’ve pretty much been doing everything wrong! I’m looking forward to downloading the photos I took and I’ll post any good ones. I’m really looking forward to getting out in the garden tomorrow.

Have you started sowing anything yet? What have you been doing in your gardens and allotments?

Reasons to love Yorkshire – RHS Harlow Carr

HarlowCarr_IMG_8147

It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit RHS Harlow Carr – it’s always inspiring.

We took Adam’s parents for a stroll around on Saturday, it was their first visit and despite it being December 1st the gardens still looked amazing.

HarlowCarr_IMG_8203 HarlowCarr_IMG_8175 HarlowCarr_IMG_8200HarlowCarr_IMG_8210HarlowCarr_IMG_8232

It’s hard to choose a favourite part of Harlow Carr but the areas that inspire me the most are the ultra neat and well thought out vegetable plots, with their recycled plastic raised beds, willow edging and perfectly planted rows. How do they do that?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8174HarlowCarr_IMG_8172HarlowCarr_IMG_8161HarlowCarr_IMG_8158HarlowCarr_IMG_8156HarlowCarr_IMG_8165Adam’s Mum – Tina

HarlowCarr_IMG_8199

The alpine greenhouse is fascinating with an array of delicate plants in sunken pots inside and interesting troughs dotted around the outside. I always spend hours in the alpine zone and it sparked an idea to do an alpine advent on Instagram where I’ll be posting a different alpine each day.

A nice surprise was finding a new greenhouse. Check out the cool chilli and tiny apple decorations inside! The ideas coming out of this place are just endless.

HarlowCarr_IMG_8180HarlowCarr_IMG_8179HarlowCarr_IMG_8186HarlowCarr_IMG_8181

I highly recommend a visit to Harlow Carr. I just think these guys really know what they’re doing and I come away with new ideas and good intentions of planting my vegetables in perfect rows each time…but for some reason I just can’t quite get the look?!

Have you been to Harlow Carr or any of the other RHS gardens?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8230HarlowCarr_IMG_8219HarlowCarr_IMG_8216HarlowCarr_IMG_8198HarlowCarr_IMG_8176HarlowCarr_IMG_8173HarlowCarr_IMG_8171HarlowCarr_IMG_8168HarlowCarr_IMG_8167HarlowCarr_IMG_8163HarlowCarr_IMG_8157

HarlowCarr_IMG_8188

Talk about matching greenhouse, cold frame, container and water butt envy!

What is it about bulbs..

This weekend was my big bulb planting weekend. It’s the one I’ve been waiting for and looking forward to. I had the whole of Saturday to get on with it and at around 10.30am the sun came out! Perfect. So I headed up to the allotment and managed to do anything other than plant bulbs. I cleared and gathered some leaves, which is a job worth doing for sure. I had a cup of tea, pulled a few weeds out and then…..came home for a sandwich?!

After that though I got myself together and armed with another cup of tea I headed back, did a bit of rough digging ready for the frosts, cleared lots of space and also got some pots ready to plant up with bulbs. Just then my partner in crime Adam (husband also known as ‘Moss’) appeared with a load of Violas and Rudbeckia that he’d salvaged from a garden that he was helping with. So we spent the rest of the afternoon re-planting these salvaged flowers?! I came home with a lovely, if somewhat bedraggled, bunch for the house too but the boot of my car is still full of bulbs! I know the Violas will last the winter but I have no idea about the Rudbeckia, I’m guessing not.

The ironic thing is that Adam had planted tons of bulbs (‘hundreds’ he claims) that morning for someone else and I planted none. I know I can plant Tulips until Christmas but with weekends now being my only time at the allotment I’m getting to that dangerous place in time where I could miss the boat. The bulbs will stay forever in my boot and I will feel guilty and say to myself ‘I must try harder next year’. However, I have the makings of some leaf mould, have done some weeding and dug some big chunks into my plot to expose it to frost. I do this every year as it’s supposed to kill of all the beasties but this year I was over run by slugs so I’m not sure it’s 100% fool proof.

So, next week’s to-do column is the same and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for the weather! To my surprise on Saturday there was lots of bulb talk on twitter and I read this really interesting post on The Patient Gardener’s Weblog. I really identify with this and am glad I’m not the only one with secret seed and bulb obsession. When I returned home tonight Adam was looking very serious on the computer and when I asked him what he was up to, he replied “buying some more bulbs”!!!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: