Category Archives: Gardening

Wordless Wednesday 



Signs of growth

Not much going on at the allotment or garden at the moment but I do have a few things ticking over nicely in the greenhouse until it is time for them to go outside.

Sweet peas are coming on very well:





And for the vegetable plot, cabbages and broccoli continue to grow:



Just for contrast, here’s how they were all looking back in mid November.

Gardening roundup – what I’ve been reading/watching…

Lots of gardening programmes on at the moment, or maybe I’m just noticing them more as it is my new(ish) passion! I’ve also been reading a few interesting articles so here is a roundup of some of the things that caught my eye recently:

1. Big Allotment Challenge programme on BBC2 Friday nights. I don’t entirely like the focus on appearance rather than taste for the show bench (ugly veg rule!) but this series has a few more growing tips so I’m finding it useful. The programme website with more tips is here.

2. Great British Garden Revival – ten gardening experts talk about their particular passion to try and save the nation’s rich gardening heritage. More details about the episodes here.

3. One ridiculously simple way of transforming your garden from average to enchanting – I loved this article found via twitter on The Middle-Sized Garden blog here.

4. The Benefits of Keeping Records on the Allotment – great advice again via twitter, which I’m determined to heed this growing season… here.

5. I’ve mentioned twitter a couple of times already – definitely a great source of gardening tips, other blogs, experts and amateurs as well as information about offers and upcoming events/tv programmes. It was much more fun watching the Big Allotment Challenge at the same time as following the story on twitter – and a good way to find new people to follow. Using hashtags means you can catch up with what others think and there are also a number of Q&A sessions, for example every Thursday on Twitter from 8-9pm UK time, there is a tweetorial and gardening Q&A using the hashtag #WoolliesAskAlison

So that is my list of gardening/growing sources of information that have caught my eye recently – there won’t be as much time for reading or watching television once the weather improves so I’m making the most of my spare time now 😉

New Year Gardening Resolutions


I’d like 2015 to be the year when I really get the hang of this whole ‘growing stuff’ thing – we’ve taken on half an allotment and I’m keeping the three raised beds at the bottom of the garden too so I need to be a bit better organised…

In 2014, some crops went very well as this previous post outlined.

And some were a bit of a disaster – for 2015 I’m hoping for a lot more of the former.

So, my resolutions for the year ahead are:

1. Plan ahead – list the crops I want to grow, check the seeds I already have & stock up
accordingly and work out a monthly sowing schedule.

2. Sow little and often, staggering the harvest so we don’t risk wasting anything I’ve grown.

3. Grow more flowers – loved my sweet peas and marigolds this year and want to have more flowers I can cut for the house, as well as pots of them on the patio.

4. Waste less – we have three big compost bins and two bokashi bins now so plenty of
opportunity to ‘recycle’ anything we don’t eat as well as peelings etc. We’ve got a plan to have
some chickens on the allotment too, so that will help.

5. Keep on top of the weeding and general maintenance, little and often will be easier to

Think that will do me for now – I might need to give up work though, it is going to be
challenging to fit all this gardening in too! 😉

End of Season review: the disasters…

My previous end of season post here talked about the successes – but of course there were the disasters too.

No pictures to show my lack of beetroot this year – I tried several times, firstly sowing straight into the raised bed (where later the butternut squash and cucumber plants were rampant, so it wasn’t the soil!). When that didn’t work, twice, I tried growing the seedlings in little pots first – that worked up to the point when I put them in the bed. I suspect creatures of eating them, but not sure whether it was slugs or mice.

So, beetroot was firmly off the menu.

Another sad and sorry attempt at a crop were the courgettes. The plants seemed to thrive but I didn’t manage to harvest a single courgette, they started well then shrivelled and died.


And then there were the strawberries – all leaf and no berry sadly. Same for the blueberries, but in both cases, I suspect avian theft…

Carrots weren’t a total disaster, I did get one crop albeit a bit misshapen, nothing worthy of the show bench 😉 But there were a couple of sowings that just didn’t come up at all, so my plan to have a regular crop of carrots throughout the season didn’t work and I certainly can’t count them in the successes.


Broad beans were another partial success – they flourished for a while and we had a good
harvest until the dreaded rust hit, which was a shame.



And finally for the disaster story – peas. Put several plants in one of the raised beds but none of them thrived there. I had better luck with a single seedling in a plant pot which I left in the greenhouse but we didn’t really get enough for a good helping of fresh peas from the garden – delicious though.


But in spite of all the failures and not quite successes, I did have plenty of successful crops to redress the balance and have high hopes for next year with half an allotment to fill up as well as the raised beds at the bottom of the garden. Not quite the Good Life yet, but we’re getting there…

Autumn Colour in the Garden

Plenty of colour still around in the garden, even though I’ve started to move some of the pots into the greenhouse for winter protection.

The hydrangea is still looking bright and beautiful:


Still have some summer pansies flowering and the fuchsias haven’t quite given up for the winter yet either:



And although most of the stocks are long gone, this one still looks pretty, so I’m reluctant to give up on it:


Nasturtiums are hanging on longer than I thought they would:


And so is this geranium:


Finally, a beautiful bit of autumn colour from this Prostrate Willow (Salix nakamurana yezoalpina) that we bought from a plant fair back in April:


End of season review – what went well?

I’m beginning to consider what I would like to try growing next year which has made me have a good think about what has gone well this year and what I’ll definitely be growing again next year. I’ll do a separate post about the things that didn’t grow quite so successfully.

Tomatoes were a major success – I grew two varieties from seed, Moneymaker and Maskotka and also bought a Black Russian plant as we fancied trying something different. The Maskotka plants were attacked by nibblers but I managed to save three plants – and Moneymaker was very successful, I had nine plants, six in the greenhouse and three outside and gave away
another nine!




Cucumbers have also gone well and we could hardly keep up with eating them all. The Crystal Apple round cucumbers are my favourite. I had two plants (again grown from seed), one went completely mad, grew like a triffid and produced at least 20, while the other one was less
productive, with only three or four coming from it.


The ‘normal’ cucumbers (a variety delightfully called ‘Burpless’) have also been very productive – two plants stayed in the greenhouse and I put one outside in a raised bed where it got munched but just about survived – it then recovered and ended up producing probably 20 or more cucumbers, we had to pickle some to use them up.


The butternut squash looked well enough, two plants grown from seed, both in a raised bed outside and produced plenty of flowers but in the end only two reasonable sized squash with another tiny one. They were tasty though.


Peppers also grew well from seed – I grew Cayenne, Hotscotch and Hot Devil’s Brew and they produced plenty of chillies, see my pepper update here

So more of the same next year although now we have half an allotment, I can spread out more – just have to remember not to grow more than we can feasibly eat/store/give away!

Recipe: Hot Pepper sauce

It is no good just growing things, we have to make sure we eat them too – and I did cause a bit of an oversupply of peppers this year, as you can see from the evidence:


So my resident chef has been busy in the kitchen making his own version of a hot pepper sauce – some disclaimers/warnings first:

1. quantities are all very approximate
2. heat depends on how hot the peppers are 😉
3. don’t sniff the pan while it is cooking (dangerous to nose linings!)
4. don’t forget to sterilise the jars before filling up with your mixture

So here we have Deano’s Homemade Hot Pepper Sauce:

3 cups mixed peppers (varying degrees of heat), trim top off each but leave whole
1 inch cube of ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
half cup malt spiced vinegar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (plain paprika would also be fine)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup of water (or enough to cover the ingredients)

Put all ingredients in pan, boil for 45 mins then blitz in blender/nutribullet. Add more water
if mixture too thick or reboil if too thin until required consistency reached. Add pinch of
salt to taste.

Sealed jars should last at least 6 months in a cool place or a few weeks in a dish in the fridge.

After boiling:




And here is the finished result:


Can be eaten with all sorts of dishes, goes well with ribs and chicken wings. You can spread it
over a pizza base and add your favourite toppings or even add some mayo to cool it down a bit and have with salads.

Last of the peppers

I decided to harvest the remaining chilli peppers today so I could tidy up the greenhouse and move in some of the fuchsia and geranium plants to give them a bit more shelter over the

Plenty of peppers to pick – some of them might even be pickled… 😉



I grew three different varieties but due to a lack of labelling skills, ended up not being entirely sure which was which.



We probably won’t be buying any chilli peppers for a while! I’ll definitely be growing them again next year but will hopefully be a bit more careful with the labelling.

I still have a couple of plants left – not sure if they will manage to grow and ripen this late but worth a try…