Monthly Archives: August 2014

Where to write?

Virginia Woolf said ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’.

I have neither so does mean I do not write or I can not write? I have a portable desk (a bit like a lap tray you get for evening meals). I have endless files and boxes, books, writing magazines however I do not have a room I can call my own for my writing.

Quite simply there is nowhere to put one. We have quite a large house, we have 4 bedrooms but we also have 3 children.  We have a living room and a dining room which are pretty much full of kids stuff, table to eat at, a mini library.  We also have a toddler so anywhere I keep my work has to be safe from her meddling.  If I used a corner in the dining room it would never last, it would become my husband’s dumping ground for the mail. My eldest would dump her Ipod, tablet on it or use it for her homework. The middle one would dump jumpers she decides she isn’t wearing, books she is reading or knitting she has started. And the toddler, well she would just use every scrap of paper she can find along with every pen and pencil she can find and draw. Once she ran out of paper she would use the chair, table and the walls!  She is a budding artist I feel.

I am contemplating using part of our bedroom as my writing area/office. This is doable once we have the shelves put up for all the craft stuff on the landing, until then our room is pretty full.  We do have an extension but is isn’t finished, it is used as a shed these days and would need a lot of decorating to make it into a living space.  Alternatively I could find somewhere for a summer house?  Great in the summer, not so good in the winter and with the chickens, bees, greenhouse, pond and kids toys there isn’t really room for a grand summer house.

 

So my question is, what do you all use as your area? Are you a portable writer or do you have a designated space you write in?

Book Launch!

After a lot of research, practical experience and learning from mistakes I will have my first book launched on 1 November this year just in time for Christmas.

It will be the first in the series to help you on your route to self-sufficiency.  By your route it means you do not have to be living on a farm with windmills for energy, the point in the book is to help you find your own route to that goal.  However small or however big your self-sufficiency lifestyle is doesn’t matter, its the fact you have found a way to do what you can to stop relying on the big brands, big supermarkets for all of your needs.  So anything from growing a few herbs on your window sill to an allotment to chickens, the book will show you how to start your road to self-sufficiency with the space and time you have.

Looking forward to people’s comments.  I will let you know once ordering is available.

Top 10 easiest vegetables to start growing

I always get looks of amazement that I manage to grow my own veg, people just cannot understand how I find the time to sow, tend and harvest while bringing up three children, running my own business, enrolled at the OU and taking care of a home.  However while you are siting there wondering when and indeed, where to start you could have already spent half an hour sowing a load of seeds.  You don’t even need an allotment, many plants can be grown in pots, dotted around your flower garden, in hanging baskets, or in pots in the house as houseplants that will feed you!

I have gathered together a least of easy to sow vegetables.  These will give you a solid starting point and once you find out how easy it is, how rewarding it is, you will be desperate to experiment with other varieties of fruit and vegetables.

Salad Leaves

salad leaves

 

Crunchy salad leaves are probably about the quickest and easiest plants to grow. In a pot, a border, a window sill, throw the seeds in, cover with a layer of compost and water well.  Most varieties allow you to cut leaves from about 3 weeks to use fresh in a sandwich and will continue growing for you to cut over and over again. To ensure you get a long harvest, sow weekly throughout the year.

 

 

Spring onions and Radishes

spring onions and radishes

 

The strong smell of spring onions and peppery taste of radish tickles your tongue in a nice summery salad.  Spring onions are great sown between your carrots to confuse the carrot fly and beetroot will pretty much grow anyway.  Again you can sow these throughout the summer to have a continuous crop. 

Potatoes

potatoes

 

You don’t need a large plot to grow potatoes, most places sell potato bags. Put seed potatoes in around February/March.  A few weeks later shoots will appear above the soil, this is where you do what is known as ‘bank up’ which simply means cover these shoots.  Make sure you water well otherwise the skins will be rather dry once harvest time arrives which takes anywhere between 10-20 weeks depending on variety. Just keep a look out for the leaves dying off which is the time you know you can hunt out your home grown potatoes ready for the pot.

 

Peas

peas
 
When I first started gardening I was told peas were something most people got their kids to sow because they were so easy, could I get them to grow?  Not a chance.  Anyway I soon realised I was allowing them to get too dry, peas like the cooler weather and need a lot of water.  Sow 3 per stick, my Grandad used to say 1 will die off, 1 for the birds and 1 for him to grow on as a pea plant.  My middle daughter loves eating them straight out the pod.
 
 
 
Mint
 
mint
 
Mint is probably the easiest herb to grow, it thrives on abuse.  However fresh mint with new potatoes is simply indescribable.  Just be warned once your Mint gets going there is no stopping it and it will pop up everywhere so better to plant in a large pot to contain it.  Mint freezes very well and if you are feeling adventurous why not try a Mint Jelly for the winter lamb dinners?
 
 
 
 
Broad Beans
 
broad beans
 
I have to admit I am not a big fan of broad beans, however my husband and dad love them so I always put in about 10 plants.  You will get quite a lot of broad beans from just one plant but they freeze really well so you can have them on your roasts all through the Autumn and Winter.
 
 
 
 
 
Runner Beans
 
runner beans
 
Runner beans are pretty much grown the same way as Broad Beans. My children love sowing them in jars with kitchen towel lightly moistened and then transplanting them out after a few weeks. Just make sure they get plenty of light otherwise they are in danger of getting leggy.  As with peas they need a lot of water.  When they start to produce regularly pick to encourage new growth.  Again runner beans freeze very well but you can always make a good chutney to use up a glut.
 
 
 
Ontions and Garlic
 
onions and garlic
 
Both onions and garlic are really easy to maintain. Pop the bulbs in to well drained soil in the spring and autumn and sit and wait.  When the leaves start to die and fall over they are ready to harvest.  Tie your onions up to dry, I have been known to eat hung onions after 6-9 months!
 
 
 
 
 
Tomatoes
 
tomatoes
 
As long as you keep them well watered tomato plants are extremely rewarding.  Once they get going it is almost like you can see them growing.  Tomatoes are also very versatile, I make sauces, ketchups, chutney’s (even the last of the green tomatoes make a decent chutney).  And nothing better than a fresh tomato straight off the plant.
 
 
 
 
 
Beetroot
 
beetroot
 
Beetroot has to be my favourite root vegetable.  Sow a line of seeds, once they start to grow thin them out.  As they grow bigger you can thin out the smaller beetroots to cook for salads and let the bigger ones grow on.  Beetroots can be frozen for winter roasts ad picked for the following summer salads.

Butterfly Friendly Plants

Achillea

Dianthus

Larkspur

Scabious

Agastache

Dimorphotheca

Lavender

Schizanthus

Blackberry

Dracocephalum

Limnanthes

Sweet William

Broom

Erigeron

Lupin

Teasel

Buddleia

Geranium

Michaelmas Daisy

Thymus

Candytuft

Ipomoea

Matthiola

Tropaeolum

Cornflower

Hollyhock

Mesembryanthemum

 

Convolvulus

Honesty

Primrose

Bee Friendly Plants

Annual

Ageratum

Alyssum

Calendula

Candytuft

Aster

Borage

Canary Creeper

Cornflower

Clarkia

Convolvulus

Coreopsis

Cosmos

Dimorphotheca

Eschscholzia

French Marigold

Gaillardia

Godetia

Gypsophila

 

Perennials

Achillea

Alyssum

Aguilegia

Arabis

Aubrietia

Campanula

Canterbury Bells

Chives

Digitalis (foxglove)

Erigeron

Geranium

Geum

Helenium

Hollyhock (single flowered varieties)

Iberis

Lavender

 

Lythrum

Marjoram

Michaelmas Daisy

Myosotis

Penstemon

Poppy (oriental)

Primrose

Rosemary

Rudbeckia

Salvia jurisicii

Scabious

Sedum

Siberian Wallflower

Sidalcea

Thyme

Verbena bonariensis

 

Lavatera

Limnanthes (poached egg plant)

Linum

Matthiola (night scented stock)

Mignonette

Moricandia

Nasturtium

Nigella

Night Phlox

Phacelia

Poppy

Saponaria

Scabious

Statice

Sunflower (avoid pollen free varieties)

Verbena

Viscaria

Zinnia.

 

 

 

Summer is here!

Summer has arrived and we have been fortunate enough to have a really great summer so far. Temperatures have soared, hardly a breeze in the air and whilst I am not a sun worshipper I have to admit I have enjoyed my garden more this year. Last year we hadn’t long moved in and the people before us had lived here 18 years and had never gardened, in fact the only thing they used the garden for was plumbing supplies that they had left over when putting in the new bathroom. Along with the plumbing supplies, which I didn’t find until afterwards, was 6 foot high in weeds.

This year I have borders, a greenhouse, a pond, a chicken coop and run, vegetables grown, a start of a lawn and lovely areas for my children to play.

Hopefully you will have had chance to enjoy your garden as well as the beginnings of a successful harvest.

Your greenhouse should be at full steam ahead now but don’t forget to keep up the watering and feeding and remove the lower leaves from your tomato plants to enable them to focus their efforts on the fruit.

With regard to pruning, it isn’t too late to summer prune your apples, I have removed apples from the tree to leave about 3 in each bunch to enable those to grow bigger ready for autumn picking. The ones I take off I have used to make chutney and the ones that could a bit damaged I have fed to the chickens so nothing needs to be wasted.

Once your raspberries have finished fruiting prune them ready for new growth, I still have raspberries coming at the moment so will wait another few weeks.

And finally it may seem like the season is over, you have a lot of bare patches of land not being used but you can keep sowing over the summer to keep your garden productive over winter and into next year. I have listed some ideas below:

Outside

1. Dwarf French beans (I live in Southern England so still quite warm here, I can usually get away with sowing up until end of August, our first frost doesn’t start until end of October)

2. Carrots, beetroots, parsnips, turnips.

3. Winter radishes and swede

4. Swiss chard and leaf beet

5. Oriental Greens

6. Lettuce (move over to winter varieties), rocket, cress.

7. Fennel

8. Spring cabbage

9. Bunching and spring onions.

Greenhouse

1. Coriander

2. Salad crops

Hope this gives you some food for thought.