Archive for August, 2011


I picked up a pretty little variegated acer in Morrisons yesterday. It was £3. I’ve been quite impressed with Morrisons for plants so far this year.


Eaton Hall

Eaton Hall is the Duke of Westminster’s family home just on the outskirts of Chester.  Four times a year he opens the gardens to the public and all the proceeds go to charity.  Today was the last opening day for 2011 so we decided to go and have a nosey!  We’ve lived here for 15 years and have never been, but then again we didn’t have any interest in gardening before really.

This is the house and chapel viewed from the lake, it’s all very grand

Eaton Hall and chapel

We came in via the stables courtyard

where there were displays of the family history etc and some fancy old carriages


Then we headed out to the gardens and passed a lovely herbaceous border

before heading into the huge walled kitchen garden where everything was growing really well, or had been re-sown for winter crops

It is all grown organically too and there were a lot of companion plants among the fruit and veg.  Some of the beds were edged with iron railings just a bit higher than ankle height and fruit trees had been trained along them with huge apples and pears hanging off them!

The orchards were heaving

Further away in the grounds was a small building with a tea garden which seemed to have various herbs and box hedges in it

and I was taken with this plant.  Can anyone enlighten me as to what it is?

the flowers are like little pompoms

There was a falconry display which we didn’t see but we did see the birds waiting to perform

I’m not a fan of birds being kept captive but it is lovely to see them close up.

And finally a photo of a thistle type thing just because I am pleased with how well it came out!! (Damn I think I’ve missed the deadline for the Countryfile Calendar competition!!)



More books!

Walking through town today I discovered that a branch of The Works has opened again.  I thought they had gone into administration as the old branch closed a couple of years ago.  Anyway, the book magnet drew me in and I picked up some bargains.

RHS Gardening Techniques, originally published in 1981 but this is a new edition from this year.  RRP £9.99, £1.99.

Growing Vegetables by Alex Smith, RRP £6.99, £1.99

The Allotment Chef by Paul Merrett, how to grow and then how to cook them. RRP £12.99,  £2.99.

£30 worth of books for £7!!  Bargain!


Apart from the bumper bean crop that developed while I was away – I was in Ireland by the way – some of the seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago have germinated.

Basil "Genovese" seedlings

Chicory (left) & Pak Choi (right).

Turnips (top) & carrots (bottom)

There are a couple of carrots poking through as of today, honest!  I’ll have to thin a few of them out though.  These all came up really quick whereas my parsley is really struggling.  Also I think I may lose a couple of the lavenders but then again they were (technically) free so 4 out of 6 isn’t bad.

THE amazing secret to growing French Beans!!

This is it!! The only piece of advice you need!!  Ready??

Go away for 6 days and leave the watering in the capable hands of your neighbour who has never grown veg, and you will come home to find that the three French Bean plants you have growing in a pot on the patio have produced this number of beans!!!

Go away for 6 days and look what happens!

So there you go.  Guess what’s for dinner tonight!

Veg books

I got a couple of books from the library on Tuesday. ….Grow your own veg by Carol Klein and Grow Organic by Garden Organic. I’m enjoying the organic one at the moment as hopefully these are the principles I will try to use in my garden.


Late sowing

Since I harvested the potatoes, the used compost has been sitting in a big bucket because I didn’t want to throw it away.  But what to do with it?  As a newbie veg gardener I am not sure what you can sow at which times of the year but some of the magazines seem to suggest that you can sow quite a few things this time of year.

So this morning I got the potato grow bag back out of the shed, mixed half and half used compost and new peat free compost and filled it halfway up.  I folded the top over and made two drills into which I put some carrot seed and some turnip seed.  In my trough which had had mixed salad leaves and radishes, I again mixed in some new compost and sowed pak choi and chicory.

All the seeds are freebies which I have collected from various magazines so if they don’t produce much it’s no biggie.

Meanwhile I have the tiniest of shoots coming up in one of the pots I sowed with parsley about 10 days ago.  I was starting to think nothing was going to grow but looks like something is happening after all!

And, we have decided to let the guys our builder recommended loose on the garden.  They are going to come around the beginning of September to do all the manual work like ripping up and replacing the old weed membrane and gravel, taking out some shrubs and root stumps, digging me a veg patch and laying a new lawn.  Then it is up to us!! Yikes.


I have been making and selling handmade natural soaps for over a year now.  I go to a local (small) farmer’s market and also have a website The Soap Folk.  Stocks are a little low at the moment because I wasn’t making any during the recent house extension, but I have now been back to work.  I recently had a brilliant result with my Oatmeal & Goat’s Milk soap from a family whose little boy has severe eczema and actually has to go down to London for specialist treatment.  After using my soap they contacted me and told me that it had calmed his eczema down and put in an order for 12 more bars.

This got me thinking and knowing that goat’s milk is very softening to the skin I decided to expand the goat’s milk soap range.  So currently curing I have a Lavender & Teatree, a Geranium, and a Gardener’s Soap containing rosemary, oatmeal, teatree and coffee grounds.  These should all be available in the next few weeks.

I started making my own soap when I decided to cut down on chemicals and am really pleased with the results.  All the soaps are made with oils such as olive, coconut and rice bran, and I only use essential oils for fragrance.  I don’t use palm oil at all and they are all SLS free and not tested on animals.

If you would like to be informed when they are ready you can visit The Soap Folk and sign up for my newsletter.



River Cottage Veg Patch

I had some belated birthday presents yesterday from my friends.  Four of us met up in Starbucks for a spot of knitting and I got a knitting book of oddball patterns such as a squirrel on wheels, mini mountain range and pigs in wigs!!  I also had a lovely leather purse and a gardening book……..River Cottage Veg Patch

I haven’t really had a good look through it yet but it is a good size (about the size of a paperback novel) with a sturdy textured hardback cover.

Free (-ish) lavenders

In a recent issue of Gardener’s World magazine there was an offer for 6 free lavender plants if you paid £4 P+P.  So I filled in the coupon and ordered them, and they arrived this morning.  They are only small plug plants but they look healthy enough.

Each one is different but the names were printed on the front of the packaging and I didn’t have any plant label sticks.  So I used my reuse, recycle brain and fished an empty yogurt pot out of the recycling bin.  I cut strips and pointy ends and used a Sharpie to write on them.  Perfect plant labels!

I potted them all together in a small trough because they will go into the garden at some point.

I must google the different names to see what they will look like when they flower next year.

We’ve just had a couple of guys round to have a look at the garden and give us a quote for basically digging things out and getting it prepared for me to start doing my thang!  They were recommended by the builder who did our extension and he did a great job so fingers crossed.  We have had one ridiculously expensive quote so hopefully this one will be better. These guys seem a bit more “manual labour” than “garden designer” which is what we need.


Talking of recycling, I heard a great story on the More Hip podcast.  A couple of friends have been sending each other a birthday card for around 30 years.  And when I say “a birthday card” I mean ONE birthday card.  One of them sends it to the other who then writes on it and sends it back when it is the other one’s birthday.  Over the years they have had to add the occasional sheet of paper when they ran out of room but the same card has been going backwards and forwards all that time.  I think it’s a great idea, after all do you remember the picture on the front of all the cards you get year after year?  Would it matter if it is the same one?  Think of the number of trees that could be saved if everyone did this, and the cellophane wrapping etc that cards are wrapped in these days.  And if you had a group of people you could send a different one to a different person to add a bit of variety.  I certainly wouldn’t be offended but maybe choose the friends you do it with carefully!!


And in case you were wondering, my other present from Colin arrived in the post yesterday.  It was a copy of Vegetable Growing Month by Month by John Harrison.  I have realised that it is actually a previous edition of the book I reviewed recently, The Complete Vegetable Grower, without all the glossy paper and photographs.  But this is great because that was a library book and now I don’t have to buy a copy!!