Garden :: August 2016






August is a busy month in the garden – everything tends to go a bit wild and we’ve been busily picking (including shifting bolting chard, perp spinach and fat hen into the quail or chicken pens for them to enjoy, where I don’t leave them to self seed).  Beans have been chopped and frozen and many courgettes used in many ways, as is always the way with courgettes – although they’ve not done as well as in latter years and we’ve been in no way inundated as before and I’m finding myself rather disappointed (I’ll have to remind myself of this on years I’m swearing because I can’t process them fast enough!)

The inspiring Anni Kelsey ( very kindly sent me some sweet cicely and salsify seeds which I have duly planted (and the salsify has germinated – very excited to see how it gets on, it isn’t a vegetable I’ve tried before).  I shared the seed love with my neighbour (who gave me some trays (!) of kale earlier in the year and have built a further raised bed by the patio (meaning J could empty the largest compost bin and dismantle it to be moved to the allotment) which will likely become home to Tsai Tai and more kale.

The chicken area is being steadily re-organised as we make way for a couple of new runs ready for the change in weather (one for the big egg-laying girls, another for the Pekins, although both groups will get to have a wander in a larger area as well, but the covered runs will protect fluffy Pekin feet and offer more shelter to the birds in worse weather).

I’ve been busily drying calendula and infusing it for use in balms and salves, alongside various herbs (and some onions for home-made onion powder) and regularly making various cordials for drinking with fizzy water in the sun (when we’ve had it) whilst laying plans for fruit trees to go in this winter (very excited!)


Slow Living and Garden :: July 2016


And then the garden went Boom!  I’ve never been the tidiest gardener – a couple of years ago I took part in a series with Monty Don and he sighed at me a lot and was very patient, but did say that I was rather “chaotic” – as it was, we found out that we had to move halfway through filming, which kind of put the kai-bosh on our plans (and as it was, it was all very rushed and we moved the day after we finished filming – very, very far from ideal!)

I did try to be more tidy, really I did, but with a baby on the way and then here and some residual health issues from that experience (10b 11oz is bl**dy heavy, especially when your back isn’t at its best and said baby is baby no 6!) “tidy” went out of the window – as did getting much done in the garden.

But slowly, very slowly, we are finally getting around to pulling the garden into productive use (it was all grass and concrete when we moved in).  And yes, I do weed, when I need to, but also tolerate (and indeed welcome) more “weeds” than many gardeners would perhaps tolerate – I’m happy to leave them in their space whilst I’m not using it.  It may not work for everyone, but it does for me.


We’ve built various raised beds – the one above is closest to the patio and holds a selection of salad leaves, plus some fuchsia I had nowhere else to put and a rescued honeysuckle (we’re planning to give it something a bit more attractive to climb up next year).


The currants and gooseberries all have temporary homes around the garden, as some will be moved out front when we move on to pulling up the paving (the front is entirely paved) to make space for a front garden and others will be arranged around the planned for trees when we start planted them in the autumn/winter.  Here they’re fairly well hidden by bolted chard.


The two large raised beds are almost unrecognisable from a few months ago.  The eventual plan for the garden is to grow more perennials, but for the time being they are home to various annuals (including self-seeded perpetual spinach, amongst other things).

We have had many self-seeded sunflowers around the garden.  Some I have rehomed to pots, others I’ve sadly had to pull and compost, but some I just left to get on with it.  I like to leave the odd perpetual spinach/chard/lettuce to bolt and seed about.

Around the raised beds I’ve been planting various herbs (including transplanting strawberries from the “wild side” – yes, we do have a wilder side) and the plan is to put in stepping stones and let the herbs spread around them.

The eventual plan for the fences on both sides are espaliers and fans of fruit trees (our neighbour on the pictured side will be collaborating with us, staggering trees back and forth across the fence).


So far this year we have harvested: beetroot (leaves), chard, kale, perpetual spinach, broad beans, borlotto beans, courgettes, black and red currants, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, a few carrots (the first sowing was disturbed and the carrots’ growth damaged as a result – but there will be more to come), lettuce (various), welsh onions, nettles, nasturtium (leaves so far), basil, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, calendula, lavender, lemon balm, various mints, potatoes, rhubarb, cucumbers (from the conservatory) – I’m bound to have forgotten something!

I’ve been busy processing berries into cordials and crumbles, plus drying a few (cherries pictured aren’t from the garden).  Rhubarb, lemon balm and mint have all been used to make more cordials (and in the case of the latter two, have also been added to homemade lemonade).  A raspberry liqueur has also been added to list of things steeping for the Winter Solstice.

Coming fast in the wings are tomatoes and dwarf beans.


“Purple Queen” dwarf bean flowers


The hedgerow in the chicken run is doing very well (I do dive in and weed a bit occasionally, but the chickens really enjoy access to the abundant salad bowl).



The neglected side of the garden is home to rampant raspberries and other hardy thugs competitors (I’m looking at you, feverfew).  Yes, I should probably have tied the raspberries and yes, I did forget to cut them back early this year – but the upside of that is bonus accidental double cropping of the raspberries, so not a complete loss!  Many are due to be rehomed to the shaded side of the new allotment and others will be finding a “tidy” home out front where they will lead a cultivated, tied in existence, for front garden presentation’s sake, to make room for the planned for espaliers and fans.


And finally a quick pic of my little helper – who loves being in the garden – he enthusiastically helps me pick and weed (and is the reason I still don’t have any garlic chives in the garden…)

Slow Living :: May and June 2016


We finally bottled the blackcurrant wine.  This is our first attempt at making it and lets just say that siphoning off wine with a toddler present can be a rather stressful experience (he was soaked through from head to toe dabbling about in the sterilising bucket!)  We will have our first taste around Winter Solstice (when we should hopefully also have a range of homemade liqueurs to sample – I make some every year).


Our next door neighbour has an allotment and her rhubarb went into overdrive.  She gave us armfuls of the stuff (I stopped weighing at about 10kg and there was still quite a lot more!)  Aside from the obligatory rhubarb crumble and some rather lovely strawberry and rhubarb cordial, I also made some barbecue sauce.


I used a recipe I found online at:  Prim and Primal and it was really good!  I scaled it up and was glad I did – it’s certainly on the list to make again, in much larger quantities.

Rhubarb liqueur was another obvious choice and I’m considering a strawberry and rhubarb version.  I’m also planning on making some rhubarb wine (but have had to freeze the rhubarb for this purpose, pending getting some of the other ingredients needed).

As the weather improves I spend more and more time in the garden and feel less inclined to sit and type.  Slowly the garden is taking shape.  Still looking scrappy, but a long way from what it looked like when we moved in and even just a few months ago.


I’m looking for the following if anyone has any seeds, cuttings or plants to spare.  Please see my “Offered: Plants, Cuttings or Seeds” page for what I may have to swap.

Bergamot – Red (Monad Cambridge Scarlet)
Caraway (Carum carvi)
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
Garlic, Daffodil (Allium neapolitanum)
Garlic, Society (Tulbghia violacea)
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hosta – any
Kale, Dubenton’s (Brassica oleracea var. ramosa)
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora)
Leek, Babbingtons (Allium ampeloprasum var. Babingtonii)
Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
Liquorice (Glycyrhza)
Mint, Morrocan (Mentha spicata var crispa ‘Moroccan’)
Mint, Strawberry (Mentha x piperita Strawberry)
Onion, Egyptian Walking
Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor)
Scented pelagoniums – any
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Tarragon, Russian (Artemisia dracunculoides Russian)
Violet, Sweet (Viola odorata)


I have the following plants that I can take cuttings or save seeds from:

Herbs, Vegetables and Various
Dependant on time of year.  Would need to know in advance or at the actual time to be able to take cuttings unless I happen to have done some anyway.

  • Fuchsia: various
  • Lavender: Various, including: L. augustifolia ‘Hidcote’; Lavandula x chaytorae ‘Sawyers’; L. stoechas ‘Tiara’.
  • Rosemary: (semi-ripe cutting late summer).  Specific varieties: R. offic. prostratus; R. offic. ‘Blue Lagoon’
  • Sage: variety unknown.
  • Welsh Onions: would be heavy to post (!) but if you’re in the South Yorkshire/Bassetlaw area you’d be welcome to enquire and pick some up.
  • Winter Savoury: (softwood in summer)

Soft Fruit
Dependant on time of year.

  • Currants, black: variety unknown.
  • Currants, red: variety unknown
  • Gooseberry: Invicta
  • Gooseberry: Whitesmith
  • Japanese Wineberry
  • Raspberries: various, including yellow (autumn fruiting)