Tag Archives: lifestyle

Snooping around allotments in February

The weekend was rather sunny and at my parents’ allotments things were starting to stir.

I was staying with my parents last weekend and I took the opportunity to have a good old snoop around their allotments yet again! I last visited their plot properly in November and established that being a nosey gardener is in my nature.

There was a lot of activity, people barrowing compost and wood chippings, constructing paths and building structures. Jobs like that are very popular at this time of year with allotmenters and gardeners alike because there’s so many bare areas that you can tend to, unlike in the summer where they could be overgrown with foliage, flowers and weeds.



There was still an abundance of kale and it’s looking like the stuff at RHS Harlow Carr with the pickings gone from the bottom leaving young leaves at the top of long stalks. It is still my No.1 favourite veg that I have never grown!! Can’t wait to start sowing it soon.
A rare sighting of me, still obsessed with kale!

I also made a beeline for last year’s allotment winner, lots of neat bare beds but I was impressed by the quality of the veg she’s still got growing and looking so healthy.


The cabbage man has eaten the majority of his giant crop but a few remain, still looking impressive.


I also noticed a huge net box! Plus, one that is still covering carrots from last year and I spied some seedlings in a greenhouse – could they be monster leeks and onions!


It was nice to spend time at my folks allotments and I sensed a really good vibe among the allotmenteers. I’m looking forward to visiting again and seeing what happens over the next few months.

This weekend has been grey and slightly snowy so far and I’ve had to dig the indoors today! I’ve finally been able to catch up Monty Don’s French Gardens series that Wellywoman reminded me of in her recent post. The Gourmet Garden episode was of particular interest to me because it covers the topic of my latest challenge, which is to more carefully buy food products that I can trace the source of.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend and have had better weather than me. Have you been spending more time outside in your gardens lately?

Forced Hyacinths – an accidental surprise

blanched_hyacinthsUntil today I had no idea that you could ‘force’ hyacinths. I know all about forcing rhubarb since I live in close proximity to the ‘Rhubarb Triangle‘ in Yorkshire, but hyacinths?

Yesterday Adam ventured into the cellar and returned with two pots of them, looking anemic and almost plastic like. What a spectacle! They were much paler yesterday than this photo above and looked totally bizarre and alien but a lack of time and battery power meant I couldn’t photograph them in all their weirdness. They’re looking a lot greener now and apparently in just a few days of being in a cool but light spot in the house they should start producing more flower buds.

It was only when I started to think about this oddity that I discovered that forcing hyacinths is actually a real practice. Keeping them in the dark to bring them on early is apparently wide known. Adam said he’d put them in the cellar for this very reason but forgot all about them and was meant to retrieve them when the tips started to show. It would seem that I’ve been in the dark about this as much as the bulbs have.

second_lot_of_vases_out_of_the_cellar_5-12-2011_thImage from http://www.hyacinthvases.org.uk/

I found a whole blog dedicated to this practice and looking at their amazing collection of antique vessels I can see why someone would want to create a display of these bulbs as soon as they could. I’ve also found tons of information online about forcing all sorts of bulbs. Here’s Monty with his little yellow trug – apparently the episode that inspired Adam to stash the bulbs in the first place. There’s even loads of people on Pinterest who are keen on collecting the lovely glass vases as well as growing the hyacinths. I’ve quickly become obsessed and even created my own board.

I love interesting plant containers and planted some bulbs in teapots a few months back. I really think these hyacinths look cool in the colourful vases. I’m inspired to create my own collection. My only problem is space! I sometimes feel like plants are taking over my life!

Have you started growing hyacinths in the dark before? Do you have any ideas about interesting ways to display bulbs?

Gardening gifts – I got some, yes!

Before Christmas I bought and made some garden related presents and the whole time I was secretly wishing someone would give me some prezzies for the garden. Well, my wishes must have been heard. Pictured above are some awesome glass tea-light holders from my mother-in-law, she must know just how much I like night gardening.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have bought me some cool seeds in the past and this year they topped up my collection for the new year with some very interesting veg varieties. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with these soon. I think 2013 is going to be my year for going all out and trying new things, I just hope the weather is better and won’t come along and destroy my attempts.
I am also totally buzzing with my new bee hotels! A simple one from my brother and a 5 star version from friends, who referred to visiting my garden in the new year as the ‘bee resort’. Luckily I love bees and welcome them to my plot. A couple of years back I did some ‘bee walks’ for BBCT and noted a general lack of flowers for bees in my area. Once the plants in my local park stopped flowering there were literally no bees in there, yet there’s an abundance of flowering plants that the council could have used to attract them from spring to autumn but they didn’t think to plant for bees. So, anything I can do to help protect bees and encourage them, I will do. I’ve had bees nesting in my garden before and it’s been great watching them flying around doing their work.
IMG_8368My other garden related present was this lovely handmade row marker which was actually a secret santa gift from a work colleague. I’m hoping this will help me achieve the professionally planted rows that I long for.
Adam’s mum gave him these cool hooks for the shed he will be building in the new year. I can’t wait for that!
Slightly off subject but maybe a vision of the future, this extraordinary chicken calendar. One day maybe I will own some of these ‘extraordinary’ creatures!

Can you tell that I’m getting excited for the new growing season? Did you get any cool garden related presents?

Thanks for all your comments and support this year. Wishing you all a very happy new year :)

Curly kale & baked kale chips – an appreciation!

When I made baked kale chips for the first time this year I was amazed and it fast became one of my favourite things to eat. My mum has an abundance of it growing in her allotment and it’s the number 1 item on my to-grow list for next year. I made some for Adam and after one taste his exact words were, “wow, it’s a revelation!”  I was so happy this morning when Sue A left a comment on my allotment in December blog post asking me to share the recipe. So I thought I’d post it here as an appreciation for an amazing vegetable and revelation in the way you can eat your greens!

It’s very simple, you just need kale, olive oil and salt.

  • Wash the kale and strip out the stalks.
  • Break it up into bite size pieces and dry it as well as you can.
  • Pop the pieces onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • Roll the kale around in the oil and salt. You don’t want too much oil and it might take you a couple of times to get the amount right for your liking.
  • Bake in middle of a hot oven. Around 180 degrees.

It cooks really fast, anything from 5 minutes onwards, so I take the tray out and mix the kale up often so it cooks evenly. It will brown up and crisp up and it’s down to trial and error to work out just how crispy you like it. I cook mine for around 10 minutes now, turning regularly and in the middle of the oven so it doesn’t burn.

It smells rather ‘sprouty’ when cooking but it tastes sooo good! Have you tried cooking this?

HarlowCarr_IMG_8163Thank you curly kale for being totally awesome.

Nightlife in the garden – a new definition

Like so many of my fellow garden enthusiasts with full time jobs I struggle to find time to do all my winter gardening with the dark nights and weekends often filled with chores, days out or hangovers.

Despite it being winter there’s still a lot of gardening to do, in fact there is always something to do in the garden at any time of the year.

A few weeks ago Adam wanted to plant up our window boxes and he did this around 6pm in the evening with a headtorch on. Inspired by his creativity and a burning desire to get more and more of my bulbs planted we planned a night out at the greenhouse!

Armed with a thermos flask full of hot chocolate & Baileys, thermals, candles, torches and our portable digital radio, we boogied on down with the bulbs.

The moon was near full and lit up the garden as much as our torches and we managed to get a lot done! We planted loads of bulb tubs and decided to store them in the greenhouse for a while because of the pesky resident squirrel who likes to chew on them.

I tend to plant bigger bulbs in layers in big tubs. Adam opts for the ‘cramming them all in together method’. I’m looking forward to seeing them come up.

I also planted a row of alliums in my front raised bed, spread out a load of new bark chippings which have been in a pile for a couple of weeks, picked the last of my broccoli, took my pelargoniums into the greenhouse and fleeced them up, had a general potter and more importantly a really good time! The weather was quite mild considering and the hot chocolate/Baileys combo definitely warmed us up.

Adam rocked out his new special compost mix – comprising 3 year old leaf mulch and soil that he scavenged from moles!

I have to say that I will definitely be doing this again, not just out of necessity but because I really enjoyed it! I’m thinking of new ideas for lighting because that was the only minor problem we encountered. Any suggestions are welcome!

Move over Thailand, the new Full Moon Party is happening in the garden!

It’s Blooming Marvelous in Amsterdam

I’ve had a quiet week on the blog front because I’ve been enjoying a short break in Amsterdam with Adam and some friends. I must say, there’s a lot more to the city than just ‘lads on stag weekends’ and the red light district. There’s also plenty of greenery and some delightful parks and gardens too!

Initially we tried booking an apartment but when it was unavailable we jumped at the chance to rent a houseboat on one of Amsterdam’s many canals. Having our own little garden was a big draw for me and I was intrigued to see what would be in flower. Seeing ducks float past the kitchen window on my first morning was pure joy!

As well as eating pancakes we visited two markets in the lovely Jordaan area where there was an amazing abundance of Squash and Pumpkin. My homegrown attempts didn’t work out for me this year, yet it seems that everywhere I go I see the most incredible and weirdest varieties imaginable.


We also took a walk to the iconic Vondelpark where the colours of the trees were stunning.

Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without visiting the city’s botanical gardens. It’s not exactly the best time of year though so the outside area was a little disappointing but inside the greenhouses proved interesting. From the little butterfly house to the canopy walks through the big tropical house. We made packed lunches every day and enjoyed eating them on a bench inside.

I was really impressed with Amsterdam. I loved the fact that people were successfully growing plants in the smallest of places. It has given me some great ideas for my small garden at home and some ideas for vertical planting at my allotment.

Okay, so it’s not a real garden, but it is cool!

Walking around Kirby Lonsdale

Devil’s Bridge

Last weekend I was away at my parents’ house and aside from snooping around their allotment and eating kale we went on a nice countryside walk. My folks moved house a while back and I never grew up in this area so I love getting out and about.

We started at Devil’s Bridge, a famous hang-out for bikers on sunny days and a real landmark in this area. We walked into and around Kirby Lonsdale then followed the river path back to where we started. Very easy. We stopped at a tea house in Kirby and the pace was perfect for my pensioner parents and their little dog (and me). Although, I must say, I do enjoy more adventurous walks too and have my heart set on walking the Limestone Link at some point.

My walk wouldn’t have been complete without some garden spotting though (snooping) and look what I found, this gorgeous listed house and what can only be described as a cute and funky formal garden at the front. What a delight!

Weekends away are brilliant but with the dark nights and only the weekends to do any gardening, we’re having to improvise a little. Adam even did a bit of torchlight gardening last night (yes he’s mad) to get a few jobs done – he took all the pelargoniums out of our home window boxes and planted them up with trailing panzies, iris and mixed dwarf tulips. I was up mega early this morning moving some tender small trees into the greenhouse and wrapping them up in fleece before they get frost damage outside. So, gardening is getting rather interesting lately but still very enjoyable!

The Allotment

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has visited my new blog and contacted me over the last few days. I’ve been asked all sorts of things about my allotment, including “what is the big blue bed and how did you make it” and questions about what the allotment was like when I first got it. I must say it was just a huge plot, waist high in grass and a home to a couple of foxes, who passed away what seems like years ago now.

Again, I’m so grateful to everyone for commenting and contacting me and I’ll dig out some old photo’s and do some tours of Adam’s woodwork including the greenhouse, the ‘jubilee bench’ and the big blue Turkish bed! Meanwhile if you want to read more about my plot here’s a link to Plot No.15

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”!!!



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