Vegetables 2016: The results

It didn’t go well this year. I was quite busy with the animals, the house and most importantly, the boys. In some ways, I’ve made better progress than ever in the garden; I’ve cleared away most of the ivy and years of resulting debris under our conifer trees, so we’ve gained an extra few meters of space (this is a ongiong job, it’ll be some time before it’s ivy free and usable), the lawn has been regularly mowed and his slightly less moss in it then usual, and the hedges and shrubs have been trimmed.  All good stuff, but at the expense of the vegetable patch and the borders, which have been quite neglected.  I think, going forward, that I need to think very carefully about my planting lists and only go for things that pretty much look after themselves.

Well, for now, here is how it went:

FEBRUARY

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi

The tomatoes were mostly a fail. They germinated well, I did pot them up but then lost interest and the plants weren’t fed properly or watered enough. We did get some nice fruit, but I may just reduce it down to a couple of plants next year.

Aubergine Money Maker F1

They germinated too late and although were looking good at one point, didn’t have time to form decent fruit.

Sweet Pepper Worldbeater

Chilli (I need to buy new seeds, again, not sure what variety yet)

Chillies and peppers never germinated…..the seed is likely too old.

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

I can pretty much never get my artichoke seeds to germinate….need to do some reading up and find out what I’m doing wrong.

MARCH

Spinach Bordeaux

Grew brilliantly, mostly self seeding and the chickens benefited greatly 🙂

Cucumbers (Need new seed, again not sure what)

Forgot to buy seed – doh!

Courgettes Zephyr

Grew well. One for next year.

Melon Edonis

Never formed fruit 😦

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell

Grew well but went to seed quickly.

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered

Err…..not sure what happened here….not sure I actually planted them.

Peas Oasis & Purple Mangetout

Grew well.

Herbs Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, French Sorrel, Thyme, Mint, Coriander, Lemon Grass

Hit and miss, depending on if I watered the pots properly. Will always make space for herbs though.

APRIL

Swiss Chard Bright Lights & White Silver

Brilliant, as always, and self seeds everywhere.

Beetroot Bolthardy

Grew well.

Sweetcorn Conqueror

Great success…again something I’ll aways make space for.

Spring Onions Welsh Red Stem & North Holland Blood Red (seed collected from last year’s plants)

Grew well.

Pak Choi Mei Qing Choi & Rubi

Never actually got planted….should do it next year as in the past they’ve been great.

Beans Blue Climbing

These grew amazingly well this year and I’ve got lots dried and ready to sow next Spring.

Broccoli Red Arrow & Rudolph & Kailaan No 2

Carrots Yellowstone, Rainbow Hybrid, Purple Haze, Healthmaster & Sugarsnax

Turnip Sweetball & Snowball

Didn’t actually grow any of the above 😦

Lettuce various varieties

Pesky slugs ate them.

Herbs Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, Winter Savory and many more…

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1

They fruited too late and I now have mini squash rotting in the garden.

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Things that I will definitely always plant are garlic and shallots. Both grew brilliantly, with little effort so they are a must. Also, the potatoes (Anya) were good and I still have three bags in the greenhouse to tip out and eat, at some point. I have normally ordered all of these by now and see that many sites have run out (of Autumn planting garlic, anyway) so had best get on with it, if we want to grow them next year.

dsc_0008Sweetcorn was also a great success and I did my usual method of freezing them whole and raw, with the outer leaves intact. I have quite a few still in the freezer, which I shove in the microwave for a few minutes to cook (again, with the leaves on)…delicious!!

I need to sit down and have a good think about planting lists for next year. Adding an irrigation system would be the biggest help as inconsistent watering is definitely one of my biggest problems. I would love to add longer term things (such as an asparagus bed) now we’re committed to staying here (oldest has just gone into Secondary school, which has been a nightmare transition and is not one I’d like to repeat) and generally need to plant things that I can find time to maintain easily.

dsc_0087In other news, I’m back to cooking and baking again, especially now the weather is cooler. Bread is back on the menu and thanks to two new books (both recommended by my Sister) I’ve been enjoying trying new things. I have to be careful with my cookery book buying as I already have loads and so I only add new ones if I really think I’ll really use them.dsc_0085The rye section in Gill Meller’s ‘Gather’ is going down well. I’ve made the ‘Coriander and Caraway’ bread, which tasted delicious and would have been great, had it not got stuck in the tin so that it came out in pieces 😦 and the ‘Chocolate Rye Brownies’ have been declared ‘the best thing you’ve made yet’ by the boys. Awesome. I’m still miles away from the master baker that my Gran was, but I do try.

Christmas food post next, if I find time to keep writing.

 

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Vegetable Plating Lists 2016

Drying Flower Heads

I saved a lot of seeds last year, especially flower ones, and they have been laid out drying (and hopefully not going mouldy!) in the greenhouse.  I’ve gone though the seed box and along with everything I’ve collected, the only thing I should need to buy are cucumber seeds, which I hope to pick up locally, and maybe some things that are a bit different to grow just for fun.  And so, my ‘list’ is pretty much the same as last year:

FEBRUARY

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi

Aubergine Money Maker F1

Sweet Pepper Worldbeater

Chilli (I need to buy new seeds, again, not sure what variety yet)

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

MARCH

Spinach Bordeaux

Cucumbers (Need new seed, again not sure what)

Courgettes Zephyr

Melon Edonis

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered

Peas Oasis & Purple Mangetout

Herbs Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, French Sorrel, Thyme, Mint, Coriander, Lemon Grass

APRIL

Swiss Chard Bright Lights & White Silver

Beetroot Bolthardy

Sweetcorn Conqueror

Spring Onions Welsh Red Stem & North Holland Blood Red (seed collected from last year’s plants)

Pak Choi Mei Qing Choi & Rubi

Beans Blue Climbing

Broccoli Red Arrow & Rudolph & Kailaan No 2

Carrots Yellowstone, Rainbow Hybrid, Purple Haze, Healthmaster & Sugarsnax

Turnip Sweetball & Snowball

Lettuce various varieties

Herbs Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, Winter Savory and many more…

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1 

AUGUST &  SEPTEMBER

Pak Choi Tatsoi

Fennel Romanesco

Spinach Perpetual (Leaf Beat)

Purslane

ANYTIME

Kale Cavolo Nero & Red Russian

Herbs Parcel, Cress (Bubbles)

I realised that I’ve not bought garlic for years now, I grow more than enough to keep us going and often find myself throwing some away when the new bulbs are ready and I tire of the old, dried ones.  Because of this, garlic is also on the list and was bought and planted last autumn.  I went for garlic Germidour, which I haven’t grown before but I wanted to order everything from one place.  It’s a french, soft-neck variety that can be planted in autumn or spring.  At the same time, I bought potatoes, Pink Apple, and shallots Longer.  The potatoes are now chitting in the kitchen and the shallots are on their way in the post.

I still haven’t planted up my February list but need to get on with it, so perhaps that’s one for the weekend 🙂

 

The Foster Family Zoo

As I’ve just spent the last hour sitting at the kitchen table, drinking peppermint tea and staring into the garden, I thought I should actually do something instead and finally writing a blog posts didn’t seem like a bad idea.  In an attempt to ‘catch-up’, I looked through my photos since I last wrote and most were of animals.  It would appear that we do now reside in a Zoo, which is fitting when you also have two small boys.

Back in August, we added to the two already rescued cats (from the local RSPCA) with an old boy from Battersea, Brands Hatch, called Buster.DSC_0196.jpgHe was lovely.  I say, was, as sadly we had to have him put down a few weeks ago.  He came to use with a rather John Wayne style walk, which turned out to be one fused hip and the ‘worst case of arthritis’ the vets had ever seen in a cat.  He had a successful hip operation but a routine check up afterwards revealed him to be FIV+ and bluntly, he went down hill rather quickly with anemia and had to be put to sleep.  I miss him.  He was fantastically grumpy (I like grumpy cats) but at the same time my sofa companion, as he rarely left it, and he made a cute ‘priiit’ sound when you ticked his ears.DSC_0147To add to the animal drama, Tuppence broke her leg just before Christmas.  She’s recovered well, right now she’s running around the garden like a loon, which I hope the vet doesn’t find out about as she’s supposed to be house bound, but she just made a Houdini like escape when I opened the door to collect a parcel.  Her fur is now growing back and she looks less like she’s had a chicken leg grafted on.MouseWe still get ‘little gifts’ on a regular basis from the remaining cat that is allowed out (crazy cat lady – me? – noooooo).  I manage to rescue quite a few, which seems rather stupid when I spend most of my summer cursing the mice for eating the contents of my vegetable patch.DSC_0185We have hens now, which I think I did mention last year…I need to take some decent photos of the set-up and the hens themselves…I have tried, but they always seem to move just as I press the button.  We did have two Ginger Rangers, but alas, Mabel (above) got eaten last weekend by a fox.  We got to watch it over and over as there is a camera on that part of the garden.  It was quick but I felt bad about my relaxed free ranging style as I do know there are foxes around here, but then I haven’t seen one in the garden for months, and they usually leave their little calling cards around when they do come in.  Luckily, Doris (the other hen) survived and has now been joined by Beryl and Edna.  Nothing like a good old fashioned and totally obvious hen name.PhesantAs it’s shooing season, there are a lot of pheasants around at the moment too, and they are quite nosey, I’ve noticed, often coming right up to the glass of our kitchen window to have a good look it.  I do think Pheasants are rather handsome.DSC_0003The house is full of ladybirds.  We always have lots, I’m not sure if it’s linked, but in the early days here I did buy a few batches of ladybird larvae to keep the aphids under control.  They do this thing when we get late warm days in late autumn or in early spring where they come out of hibernation and swarm all over the house, I did try to capture it (as above) one year, but it’s hard to see just how many there are and how they are flying all over the place as well as crawling on the house walls.  LadybirdsIn winter, I find them asleep in all corners of the house, the ones above were in the shell of the hen house when I recently moved it, there were some very happy spiders hanging out near by, clearly contented with their winter food larder well stocked, so I moved the Ladybirds into a bug house we have in the vegetable garden (partly as I wanted to scrub the henhouse down before putting the new hens in but also because I’m soft and the idea that they are happily sleeping away, all snuggled up together only to be picked off one by one by a spider makes me sad.  I know, I need help).DSC_0166Even my sewing work seems to be dominated by animals.  I’ve been sewing quite a few blinds in animal prints – this Mark Hearld, Harvest Hare print from St Judes was lovely to work with.DSC_0144And my Shop sewing is all rabbits,DSC_0149and swallows (not to mention mice, little hanging robins, deer and many others….it didn’t occur to me just how much of my work involves animal images until writing this post!).DSC_0139There were animals (and quite a lot of gin) finding their way into Christmas gifts this year too.  I was a bit rubbish and only took the above photo, sorry.  Weirdly, having given quite a lot of gin, I received a fair bit too, not that I’m complaining, I do like a nice bottle of gin.DSC_0153The weekend has finally arrived, here in the Foster Zoo, and I think it’s time to get the seed boxes out and start planning,. I’m moving more towards low maintenance plants in the garden, ideally annuals (the above were an add on offer from Thompson & Morgan that I planted up in pots in the greenhouse last autumn, no idea of they are still alive!) and even in the vegetable patch I’m going to keep it simple.  I have very little free time these days, but I really need to keep in top of things, so keeping it simple and tidy is the way to go 🙂

Black Cardamom Ice Cream…



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The garden is showing all my favourite colours at the moment, I do love a bit of pink, especially at this time of year when the greens are all so zingy.  I’m loving all the bruised colour tulips that were put in last year, I had plenty already but you can never have enough!

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The salsify that I planted for the flowers is also looking rather pretty, it’s in a giant pot at the moment and needs moving into the border at some point, as I am just growing it for the flower and not the root.  There are lilacs and aquilegias, the alliums are about to open and the iris are well on their way, so the pinks and purples will continue for a while yet.

Back the post title.  I made some cardamom ice cream a while ago and thought I’d record the recipe here or I’ll forget how I made it.  Incidentally, at the time of first tasting it I though it was too sweet, but I’ve changed my mind, oh and I think it could have a little more black cardamom in there as well, as I like the very smoky taste, but I’m not sure the boys would be so pleased if I had added more.

Black Cardamom Ice Cream

First I made the custard base:

250 ml double cream

250 ml whole milk

125 g caster sugar

4 egg yolks

5 black cardamom pods, left whole but squished a little

5 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed

1/2 vanilla pod (split with the seeds scraped out, both seeds and pod used)

Follow the instructions for your ice cream maker and make sure it’s been put in the freezer in advance, if needed.

Place the cream (you’ll need another 250ml later), milk, cardamom seeds and vanilla pod into a pan.  Warm until quit hot, but NOT boiling them remove and set aside for at least 30mins to infuse the flavours.  Sieve to remove the cardamon pods, vanilla bean and any larger seeds.

Put the infused cream and milk mixture back into a pan and scald, by heating until just below boiling point, then cool a little.  Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, then add the slightly cooled milk mixture, beating all the time.  Return to the hob and stir gently over a low heat until the custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.  Remove and keep stirring as it cools.  Once cold, put into the fridge overnight.

250ml double cream

Caramel (in my case a 380g jar of Bonne Maman Caramel that I got on offer with my shopping, hence the idea to make ice cream with it in the first place, I guess you could make your own) 

The next day, whip 250ml double cream until it forms soft peaks, then fold it into the cold custard mixture.  Pour into the ice cream machine and when nearly set, place into a large freezer container.  Pour over the caramel and lightly turn the mixture with a spoon, so the caramel is swirled into the ice cream (I messed this up a bit, my ice cream wasn’t thick enough so the caramel ended up mostly sunk to the bottom in a puddle).

Freeze.  Eat.

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It’s looking good in the garden.  I need to take photos but it’s too wet out there at the moment.  I’ve planted up one raised bed with a row of barlotti beans (started in the greenhouse, as above), a row of broad beans (too close together, but I’m interested to see if I can get away with it), sweetcorn (x10, all that germinated, and planted in two rows now I know from last year that I can pretend to be the wind and hand pollinate them so I’m less worried about the planting layout) and finally some squash.  No idea what variety, I forgot to label the plants – doh!

I have one bed going with salad crops, beetroot, carrots and alpine strawberries.  Sadly the evil little rabbits got in and ate the lot, but I’m hoping some will survive.  On which note, the postman just called and  his opening line was, “It’s like Watership Down out there!”  he has a point, I really need to put some time into replacing the areas of rabbit fencing that have been dug under.

I’m away most of next week, so will be leaving the watering in the hands of my husband……I am hoping something is still growing when I return 😉

Vegetable Planting Lists 2014…

Long time no see.

Why?  Well because I’m rubbish, AND all it’s done here since Christmas is rain…and rain…and rain some more.  The road in front of the boys school has been flooded, prompting a welly wade each morning to get in and some interesting driving to get there.  We are, however, extremely lucky that our house has stayed warm and dry and (mostly) with electricity, which is more than can be said for many poor folk around here, not to mention all those on the south-west of the UK.

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Still, even if I can’t go out and work in the garden (the ground is simply too wet), I can plan, so for the first time this year the seed box has come out so I can see what I hope to grow this year, ideally using up all old seed before buying any new.

Here’s what I’ve got so far (not including succession sowing and in some cases to be started indoors or under cloches):

FEBRUARY

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi

Aubergine Money Maker F1 & Slim Jim 

Sweet Pepper Topepo Rosso, Jumbo Sweet F1 Hybrid & Worldbeater

Chilli (I need to buy new seeds, not sure what variety yet)

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

Cape Gooseberry Giant

MARCH

Spinach Bordeaux

Cucumbers Burpless Tasty Green (I will probably add another variety)

Courgettes Black Forest & Zephyr

Melon Edonis

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered & Super Aquadulce

Kohl Rabi F1 Hybrid

Peas Twinkle, Oasis (you’ve got to roll with it…sorry!), Jaguar, Balmoral & Purple Mangetouts

Herbs Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, French Sorrel, Thyme, Mint

APRIL

Swiss Chard Bright Lights & White Silver

Beetroot Pablo & Bolthardy

Sweetcorn Lapwing

Spring Onions Welsh Red Stem & North Holland Blood Red

Pak Choi Mei Qing Choi & Rubi

Beans Barlotti

Broccoli Red Arrow & Rudolph & Kailaan No 2

Carrots Yellowstone, Rainbow Hybrid, Purple Haze, Healthmaster & Sugarsnax

Turnip Sweetball & Snowball

Lettuce various varieties

Herbs Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, Winter Savory and many more…

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Gem/Rolet, Queensland Blue, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1 

AUGUST &  SEPTEMBER

Pak Choi Tatsoi

Fennel Romanesco

Spinach Perpetual (Leaf Beat)

Purslane

ANYTIME

Kale Cavolo Nero & Red Russian

Herbs Parcel, Cress (Bubbles)

There are also potatoes and I’m sure I’ve forgotten many other things.

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April has rather taken over my box, it has been given a section all of its own.  As succession seeds are used the packets will get moved to their ‘next’ timing slot (in a feeble attempt to keep up with the sowing).

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On a totally random note, look when I found in our small loft space yesterday, that, my friends, is the biggest wasps nest ever!  See how happy C is to be holding it.

DSC_0159It’s very pretty close up, you can see all the layers of different wood the wasps have used to create the delicate structure, I hope to get some better photos before donating it to school.

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Since starting this post, a few days ago, we have seen sunshine!  Not huge amounts, but enough to cheer the soul, which along with some happy sewing (new Auricula brooches for the shop) has really made the end of this dismal winter look possible.  Roll on spring 🙂

Spring is here….we hope!

What a difference some sunshine makes.  We returned from a very short break to find the garden finally in spring mode.  The work earlier in the side border is paying off as I see Muscari ‘Golden Fragrance’ and some very pretty Fritillaria that I bought on a whim last year looking lovely.  There is also much promise of the future flora here, lots of things growing well, I’d love to take some photos for you, but sadly, the situation looks like this

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still rabbit proofed and it’ll have to stay that way for a while longer as those pesky furry critters are killing my top border eating anything in site, so I can only see the pretties when I go and look over the side of the fence.  I’m thinking about attempting to rabbit proof the whole garden again, maybe, or turning all Mr McGregor and taking a liking to rabbit pie.

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I’ve mostly been tidying and weeding in the garden and enjoying seeing what has survived the winter.  Last year I threw some unknown seeds into the large pots to see what happened, they turned out to be Kale ‘Red Russian’ which I’ve thinned out.  They look a bit scrappy at the moment but I’m impressed that they have germinated at all, considering our dreadful weather.

There are also some Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants in various stages, this would be because I planted different varieties to span the season, but sadly I can’t remember which is which!  I’ve cut out the main tip, to force the side shoots to grow and I’m most excited about eating them with some nice anchovy and caper butter.  The everlasting Spinach ‘Perpetual’ is growing well as are Chard ‘Bright Lights’, Alpine Strawberries and there is hope for my Wild Garlic this year plus the Garlic and Shallots planted earlier are growing well.

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I wanted to post this photo of some shallots, abandoned in the greenhouse last autumn.  They are still in great condition, firm and very edible just left unprotected and in full daylight, which considering the ones brought indoors are long gone, mainly from being eaten but some went a bit nasty and had to be thrown out.  It makes me think I might just store them in the greenhouse in future.

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I hope to move my indoor seedlings outside this week (into the unheated greenhouse) and get the next batch sown.  I’ve just prepped this pepper for my tea tonight (the good old halved pepper, tomatoes, garlic, basil and chopped up anchovy, ready to roast for 30mins – yummy!) and it made me quite excited about home grown salad crops, let’s just hope this sunshine and warmer weather lasts 🙂

Vegetable Planting Lists 2013…

I nearly wrote 2012 in the title, I keep forgetting we are in a new year.

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So, it’s that time again, when I pull out the slightly dusty seed boxes and have a look at what’s in there.  In the olden days, the boxes wouldn’t be dusty, as I’d have spent the colder months obsessing about what I’m going to grow, but my early enthusiasm for the garden has waned over the years, partly as my sewing has taken over and also as I try to get  grip on the house.

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Spurred by recent sewing (spring flower brooches) I feel inspired, and this year, I really want a pretty garden again, and I know it’s not that hard.  There are a few rules I need to set myself though, use up all my existing seed and remember that we will be away at crucial points so I HAVE to consider how the seedlings and plants will survive if not watered daily.  Also, the usual rule of only plant what we will eat applies, I hate to see precious hours of work end up in the compost heap because I lost the energy to deal with the excess.

Here’s what we have so far, and I’m not saying I will plant all these, just that I have the seeds should I choose to:

Tomatoes

Sungold

Brandywine

San Marzone

Tigerella

Ildi

Aubergine

Money Maker F1

Aubergine Slim Jim 

Sweet Pepper

Topepo Rosso

Jumbo Sweet F1 Hybrid

Worldbeater

Chilli

Hot Stuff x 3

Long Red Slim Cayenne

Artichoke

Violette di Chioggia

Cape Gooseberry

Giant

Spinach

Bordeaux

Cucumbers

Cucino F1 Hybrid

Tiffany

Burpless Tasty Green

Radish

French Breakfast

Sparkler

Cherry Bell

Swiss Chard

Bright Lights

White Silver 

Beetroot

Pablo

Sweetcorn

Sweet Nugget

Lapwing

Spring Onions

Welsh Red Stem

North Holland Blood Red

Kai Lan

Pak Choi

Mei Qing Choi

Tatsoi

Rubi

Melon

Edonis

Beans

Barlotti

Broad Beans (Crimson Red)

Broccoli

Red Arrow

Rudolph

Turnip

Snowball

Carrots

Yellowstone

Rainbow Hybrid

Purple Haze

Healthmaster

Sugarsnax

Squash

Crown Prince

Sweet Dumpling

Gem/Rolet

Queensland Blue

Turks Turban

Hooligan

Kale

Cavolo Nero

Ok, I think that’s enough for now.  I also have a ton of salad leaves, more herbs that I’d know what to do with plus some successional peas, but I think they warrant a post of their own.

There are glaring omissions, such as french beans etc but my aim for this year is to use up existing seeds.  I’ve also decided to change some of my planting methods, I’m going to go back to having tomatoes, cucumber, chillies, aubergines and melons in the greenhouse.  I’ve also ordered a big trough, so I can plant the potatoes (and later salad leaves) away from the vegetable patch in an attempt to avoid early killing from blight.  It’ll probably go on the drive, where we get tons of sun and also where the outside taps are so I can lessen my dragging water around should we get another hose pipe ban.  I’ll add a second trough if it works and looks nice.

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Oh and I planted out the shallots the other day, I put them in much closer together than normal and with their tips sticking out.  Look at my kneeler….do you think we might have mice problem 😉

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On a slightly separate note, I bought this organic vegetable box with my Ocado order last week.  I liked it, we were forced to eat things we wouldn’t normally, for instance cabbage.  It’s not that I don’t like cabbage but I’d just normally opt for kale, ideally from the garden.  I can imagine the summer boxes are a little more exciting.

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Best get out there, it’s frosty but the sky is looking promising for a bright, sunny day and one of my first jobs is to tackle the greenhouse…..oh dear!