Herbs and tomato flowers

I have made some progress with starting our little kerb garden, but of course nothing like what I originally thought.  I ordered the following herbs from Victoriana Nurseries and instead of planting them into the ground, I’ve potted them on into larger pots until we decide where we want to put them permanently. 

# 1 x Angelica Plant
# 1 x Bay Plant
# 1 x Chamomile Plant
# 1 x Chive Plant
# 1 x Curry Plant
# 1 x Feverfew Plant
# 1 x Lemon Balm Plant
# 1 x Mint Plant – Moroccan Mint
# 1 x Oregano Plant
# 1 x Rosemary Plant – Common Rosemary
# 1 x Thyme Plant – Common Thyme

# 1 x Horseradish Plant Available from approximately late April 2017
# 1 x Hyssop Plant – Blue  Available from approximately May 2017
# 1 x Lovage Plant  Available from approximately late April 2017
# 1 x Marjoram Plant Available from approximately May 2017
# 1 x Lemon Grass ‘East Indian’ Plant Available from approximately May 2017

This is the bay plant which I’ve taken one branch from to see if I can grow it on into a tree.  I have plenty of time to offer.

This is the tea plant which is coming on well now it is in a bigger pot.
I think it was Dawn who introduced me to this website, so thank you.
A lot of the herbs double up as medicinal and not just culinary.  That’s what I love about the VN as on their website they give you ideas as to what to use the herbs for.  For example Angelica grows best along riverbanks, which is perfect for me as I’m beginning a new project to transform our riverbank.  This herb is supposed to be good “As a ‘bath oil’ for aching muscles and rheumatism” which is what drew me to it.  Working and running the smallholding, both Ste and I have plenty of aching muscles!!  Also it can be used in pot pourri which I’m hoping to make as part of the Christmas hampers.
Image from google
As I use them, I’ll be sure to do posts to show if they are worthwhile or not.
Mid April and I have flowers on my tomatoes (Garden Pearl) variety and also the Brandywine.  These were sown at the end of January and brought on in the house.  I’ll be doing the same next year too.
I’ll start feeding them with tomato feed as I think that’s what you need to do once the flowers form, or is that just when the fruit starts?  I’ll have to check.

Seed sowing, promotion, poorly kids, angry sheep and fighting cockerels!

The week started off promising as I found out I’ve been given a promotion at work which is great as at one stage I wondered if I would be laid off. 
Then my son was off school with a terrible cold which doesn’t sound too bad, but sleepless nights and snotty noses take their toll on him and me!
Yesterday saw my 2 Vorwek cockerels were told off by the sheep.  They were arguing and the sheep decided they didn’t like it and hilariously started chasing the cockerel who was “winning” around after headbutting him 2 foot into the air.  After videoing (It won’t let me upload) said chase I set about my jobs but they continued and it got nasty so I broke it up and put some septicleanse on the wound (too strong of a word) and received some good advise off my facebook friends (thank you bloggers who are on there and responded – it’s given me some good ideas for what to have in my first aid bag moving forward). 
They are stunning, however 1 is now up for sale.  They’re both coming into their own and do their jobs well, but they will hurt each other if they stay together.  I think I will keep the stronger of the 2 as he will do a better job at keeping the fox away hopefully.

Did someone order March?  I’ve gone from feeling it will never arrive to hardly believing it is here!  I’ve been keeping on top of the sowing of seeds as I am trying to do some successionally to ensure we have crops of things throughout the year.  The heat bench is a blessing and it is on permanently now.  This is what the greenhouse looked like at the weekend.

Tomatoes and some flowers, also PSB on this one
Corn salad in old strawberry box – reusing is very important
Carrots, 1 aubergine and all season kale at the back
Leeks, cauli and cabbage and more flowers I think
Sweet peas, peas in drainpipe, blueberry plants and fig tree (stick!)
3 “free” blueberry plants from GYO mag (paid postage) and some currant cuttings I took myself
My comfrey is coming through, yey!

I have taken delivery of 4.5 tonnes of screened topsoil.  This will go on the veg beds which have been filled with muck.  John Seymour grew carrots in muck and said his were fine, so I am going to try it.  I don’t mind forked carrots, I just want food!

 The wagon was huge but it did make me appreciate the late February blue sky.  The driver also bough 3 1/2 dozen eggs off us, so a good day all round.

 My lovely parents bought us a conference pear tree just because they wanted to, so I promptly soaked it, dug a hole and put a bucket of rotted muck in and firmed the tree down.  I love that we’re planting trees for future generations to benefit from, as well as us of course.
I got my first/second earlies in, some outside and some in the polytunnel to experiment and know what to do next year.
I’ve planted Swift (FE), Athlete (SE) and British Queen (SE)
We have been getting goose eggs regularly for a couple of weeks now and I have found they make the best frittata I’ve tasted.  We had a massive one which turned out to be a double yoker.  I’ll be using the rest to make some cakes for the freezer that I will pre slice and pack ready to use in packed lunches.
 I can’t recall if I posted this already, but these are some bulbs which the chickens must have scratched out last summer and have self rooted in silly places.  I rescued them and look forward to seeing what they are.
 We are expecting new additions Saturday!!! Stay tuned!

First whole weekend outdoors

What a beautiful weekend we had here in North East England.  It was glorious for a Winter’s day in February.  It’s due to turn cold by the end of the week again, so I’ll be sure not to get caught out.
After the usual daily/weekend jobs I started as I meant to go on and got the peas moved to the poltyunnel as they are looking nice and strong and rather big in their modules.  I know we risk losing them, but I am sowing every couple of weeks so that I can mark off which sowing date was best for me. 
I moved the strawberries that were in little pots, taken from runners, to the polytunnel too, for an extra early lot.
I also got a bin of carrots sown.  I have another bin I will put some more in but I want to add sand to that one to compare.  On the below photo, I put the bubble wrap over the top to help germination.
Strawberries planted from 2016 finished plant runners
 Once I’d finished with the polytunnel, I took a stroll into the veg plot.  The garlic is growing very well, but something has had the first few cloves away.  This line went all the way down to the bottom of the bed before.
I then dug a bean trench and filled it with the compost bin’s contents.  I intend to dig another bean trench to the right of this one, leaving a gap, and filling that one with rotted muck.  That one will be for French climbing beans.  I’m using muck as I’ve no more compost from the veg peeling composter.
It was a day of pondering as I worked.  I have the area where the rescue hens lived in 2016 before the lockdown.  I think I would like to bring this area back to life as a flower garden/mini orchard.  There’s already lots of things in there at the back of the grassed area.  Last year, I was adamant that anything that didn’t provide food was to go.  However I’ve since learnt the importance of flowers, bees and pollination plus beneficial insects (not to mention the decline of the bee population).

 This is the area I was thinking about putting a few fruit trees, maybe an apple off Kev, a pear (already got) and almond?  I need to find out more about the fruit trees.  The space is quite big so I was thinking maybe I could make a bed for my berries and bushes that like ericaceous soil if I don’t put fruit trees in.  We do have 3 apple trees already, would 4 be too many?  Should I get another pear (the one I have is conference, self pollinating).  Decisions….

Whilst pondering this, I remembered I needed to cover another area of the plot that was all weeds last year with membrane, to hopefully eradicate them.  This is it:
Looking up and over the fence, I then started pondering something else…so I walked out to the front of the house and took a photo of what’s there.  I could tidy up around the bridle path sign and plant some wild hedging here, like Tricia suggested.
I have a wall that runs along the front of the house which is very long and south facing.  Now I don’t want anything high, as it’d stop the view from the rooms, but maybe I could grow peas, mini sunflowers or such like along the wall?

Whilst I was pondering, Ste was actually working.  He made a new feeder for the growers.  Their normal feeder is insider this bucket and they have to put their heads in the holes to get to it.  It stops them wasting it all as this bunch are terrible for that.  These guys will be back out soon hopefully.  The ban for my postcode is being lifted shortly.

He also lined the last bed with membrane and we set about filling it with muck, so that’s now done.  I just need topsoil for them all now, which I am ordering at the end of the month.
I saw my first dandelion emerging on Sunday which is telling me things are starting to grow and I need to start the weekly weed if I have any chance of survival this year.

 There wasn’t just me having fun in the veg plot.  Grace knows how to dig up the leeks.

Jack helped out too with the last of the sprouts.

 Steven did the man thing and had a fire!  Incidentally the weed bed I mentioned is behind this fire bin, pre cover up.

As I left the plot for the afternoon, I couldn’t help but look back and get that giddy feeling that all gardeners so as the season starts. 
As always, comments, questions and advice are welcome.  We’re very much learning as we go, jumping in both feet first.

Family moments – Grace’s 10th birthday plus veg plot and seed updates

Grace, our daughter, will be 10 this week.  As her birthday falls on a Tuesday we offered to throw a birthday party for her on Sunday.  She invited a couple of her friends and family joined us to celebrate.
Having your birthday right after Christmas means usually you have everything you want, however there’s always something you can buy a 10 year old girl isn’t there?  She will open her gifts from us on the actual day.  She received some lovely gifts that were very thoughtful from friends and family.
So with a collection of people coming over, all with different tastes and likes, I set about thinking what I could offer food wise that was a) delicious and b) not going to break the bank.  Also I was bearing in mind that anything that wasn’t used, would be used for packed lunches the coming week.
I decided to put the following together:
Roast pork and stuffing sandwiches.
Roasties and gravy.
Pulled pork, flat bread and salad
Veg soup with wholemeal bread
Chicken korma with rice, naan, mango chutney and mint yoghurt.

I didn’t photo the hot food but it was in the 3 slow cookers on the bench behind me.

I also had on display my good friends platter that she made for the day as she’s starting a new business and wanted honest feedback on the products.  They have a Facebook page if you would care to take a look and support small UK businesses.  Their signature dipping oil was delicious so I made a bread to use as to dip.  I highly recommend it!

I made a cake for Grace:
She had a lovely time and looked very grown up.
Finally but by no means least, I have a recipe for Louise’s chocolate brownies which I am making tonight for Grace’s after school surprise tomorrow and may have to sample a few myself 🙂
What I have learnt from this weekend is that I love putting on a spread for people and making my family happy.  I’ve also learnt that no matter how well you plan, things won’t always go to plan.  No matter how well I know how to make this and that, I still need it all written down to the letter.  I got in a bit of a fluster when I realised I hadn’t put the slow cooker pork on the day before ready to heat up separately on the Sunday.  I still managed to get it done thanks to Caroline’s husband!  Otherwise, most things went ok, though I think I would like to work out what I can cook in advance, so that next time I can do more the day before.
In the veg garden this weekend:
I’ve decided to tackle one thing at a time and see it through from start to finish.  Sounds obvious but sometimes I have so many things to do that I flit between them and don’t feel like I have completed anything!  If I’m going to supply my family with all year round food, then I need to be organised and on the ball. 
Therefore after riding out on Saturday and getting the animals seen to, I set about in the veg plot.  It was a delightful day and when I looked up I saw blue sky and thought to myself, this is what it’s all about. 
I decided to work on the bed which has fruit in it.  We have 3 currants, 3 rhubarbs, 2 (3?) gooseberries, strawberries and some unruly but highly productive raspberries in here.  Now I’d like to train the raspberries to just grow along their intended path which you can see marked out with rope.  They don’t, they try to take over everyone elses patch.  The strawberries don’t like being contained either.
Firstly I put wood ash around the currant bushes. 
Then I used my new (Christmas gift) rotavator to turn over everywhere else as this is the bed I’d put the paper on to last year to suppress all of the weeds.  I know they will come back this year so I needed to prevent that.
I had invested in some membrane for another project but dashed off to get it.  I’d had an idea.
I covered the soil with more rotted muck (it really was in a sorry state when we moved in).
Then I used the membrane to cover the 2m width where the currant bushes are, leaving just enough space at the side for the rhubarb – perfect.
I’m really pleased with the end result.  In fact, I’m considering building up the edges and covering it with bark as the membrane can stay down.  I’m not sure about this yet.  It doesn’t matter too much for this year as long as the weeds don’t come through. 
Along with the blue skies we have snowdrops coming through.
This wheelbarrow was left by the previous owner and when the hens were out they liked to take dust baths in it, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the bulbs had survived!
Seeds update
The Brandywine tomatoes that I re-sowed (31st Jan) after the first lot were too leggy (expected) popped up yesterday so a week to germinate.  They’re on the South windowsill now, I made sure I caught these in time.
I’m going to replant some of the other leggy ones, which I did last year successfully and hope for the same result.
I sowed Mint, Basil and Chives on Saturday (4th Jan) along with 3 broad beans (Jubille Hysor).
I’ve also got Spring onions sown and the leeks are starting to show.
The peas that I planted in the drain pipes?  Remember them, well their indoor counterpart are coming through already.  Impatient little things 🙂
None of my peppers or chillis are through but I’ll wait – the aubergines too over 2 weeks, so there’s time. 
Next up is early carrots and more broad beans – can you believe I ran out? If anyone would like to seed swap some – I’d be happy to take a packet off you and send something over 🙂

Polytunnel layout

Exciting news, the polytunnel has been dispatched.  It’s winging its way to our house as we speak and will hopefully arrive no later than tomorrow.  It is 6m by 3m wide (2m high).  I have never grown in one before and will more than likely get a lot wrong however I have decided to try a bit of everything in there.  We’re going to put long beds along each side and I need to fit a couple of trees in there (tiny things) too.
So the most obvious solution is to divide the beds into 1 metre lengths.  They will be filled with muck and turned in to the ground that’s already there.  They will be 1 scaffolding board high from the ground (this also means we can use some of our muck which is always on the list of things to do).  The carrot bed won’t have any in.
So I plan on growing in there the following – the list is subject to change!

Bed 1 Cauliflower and cabbage
Bed 2 Calabrese and PSB
Bed 3 Peas and beans
Bed 4 Courgettes and salad leaves
Bed 5 Early strawberries
Bed 6 Mangetout and other peas/beans (I have lots)
Bed 7 Tomatoes and cucumbers (not sure if this is “allowed”)
Bed 8 Early potatoes and pots of mint
Bed 9 Squash and corn
Bed 10 Carrots and radish (no manure in this part of the bed)

The remaining 2 spaces will be for the trees and herbs.
I’m hoping the above growings will be ready a bit before the outside space, to extend the growing season.  Once the first earlies are done in the polytunnel then something else will go back in their spot.  I’ll make sure that the space is filled and keep records for next year. 
We’ve also got the greenhouse which I will be growing tomatoes, chillis, sweet peppers and cucumbers in as well as using that to bring the seeds on ready to go into the cold frame and planting out.  We had loads of tomatoes last year but even that wasn’t enough so I’ll be trying some outside in the south facing garden too.
Are you growing anything different?  I feel like I am growing a typical veg garden which I love the thought of, but all ideas welcome.
Oh and in other news, the 3 main geese have started hanging around with Ryan now.  Maybe they will accept her (we named her Ryan before we knew she is a she!)?  I