Gardening on a budget, Harvests, Recycling

CRAFT – Dew Drop Wreath!

Yesterday my husband armed with a pair of tree loppers chopped around six-foot from the top of my laurel, this plant had grown for the last 8 years and I had managed to get it to arch over the walkway to my shed. To my dismay, I went outside to see that he had not only topped the excess height but cut back my archway, okay so I have more light to my decking but the shed was covered for a reason!

Anyway with half a ton of laurel now settled in the small walkway it was obvious I had enough to fill a small skip, after a  few moments mourning my archway I began to strip the leaves to fill my compost bin. I was surprised how flexible the stems were and despite the relatively short length I managed to make a dew drop shape from the longer cuttings.

Using a small amount of garden wire I secured the first shape, adding another branch beginning from the opposite direction I twisted the branch through the first ring and secured the top with a wire twist. After leaving them overnight I filled out the loops with grape-vine cuttings and some ivy flower heads from the garden.

With a few lengths of ribbon I think they will make wreaths that can be dressed for Halloween, with a small skeleton of collection of plastic characters. I however will place the largest one at my front door and find a slate sign to hang from its centre, something seasonal to represent the change of season and hopefully it will last the winter.

With a little planning, my archway should be back by the end of next year and my husband is now officially banned from using the shears!

Happy Crafting!


Allotment, Grow Your Own

GYO – Over planting!

When I planted my late sowings I set them at 8cm apart, obviously too close together as  I returned several weeks on I was happy to see a good selection of healthy growth. As I checked between the plants were some had grown enjoying the nutrients the others had grown on steadily.

After pulling out around twenty smaller seedlings I set them out with good spacing on the other half of the raised bed. These I know will grow on behind the others allowing me a later crop, this method is great if you fail to maintain successional sowings and ensures I will have a staggered harvest.

I also found several large seedlings elsewhere which were self-sewn so adding them to the selection, along with my climbing beans and rogue cucumber the bed is set to over winter a variety of Brassica plants, including January king and early purple as the seedlings look to have a purple tinge to the leaves.

I am impressed with the raised bed as it has required no additional watering, and the crops are flourishing. I find this very successful, I often find that you can avoid the glut by staggering the growth of crops with this method.

Happy Horticulture!


Allotment, Grow Your Own, Harvests

GYO – Harvest – 29 September 2018

Today after dinner my eldest daughters and I ventured down to the allotment to check on the crops, and general outlook of the site. Obviously my new water tank was the first  point of call after a full two weeks of rain since the last check I was pleased to see it had passed the 200 litres mark.

The site itself is desperate for the grass to be cut, as I checked over the broccoli I could see a few heads beginning to form in the hearts of the larger plants, I am really excited to harvest these as they are homegrown plants. It will be a few weeks yet but I am thrilled to see the beginnings of a successful harvest.

One of our little pumpkins was in full colour and a small courgette was hiding under the mass of large leaves. So after harvesting them I turned towards my sweetcorn, though the cobs looked small as I checked them they were a wonderful creamy yellow and as I counted them there were about thirty small cobs. Which should provide us with several weeks of cobs to add to our Sunday lunch.

The beans were again full of pods and after setting my girls to harvest them, we ended up with a good selection of large pods. Some of which have pink beans, these I have set to one side as they are a different variety to the usual which are brown.

As it was clearly the final harvest I took the last pictures of my small field and pulled up the plants, shaking the roots to remove the soil. After lifting a few of the larger weeds I set them to one side to dry out, finally I placed the stems on the compost heap at the bottom of the plots.

My cabbages were ravaged by slugs but fortunately the hearts were intact, a small but perfectly formed cauliflower was the last to be harvested other than three sunflower heads that had managed to avoid the birds. After watering the greenhouse we collected up our bounty and set off, after donating a sunflower head to a couple at the gates with clear instructions to save a few seeds, as the plants were giants we enjoyed the sunshine on our walk home.

Happy Harvests!


Knitting Pattern

Poppy Knitting Pattern!

This pattern has been designed due to a world war 2 trip my daughter is attending soon, as the beret I bought did not hold it’s shape very well I decided to add a knitted flower to give it added form.

As the only patterns I have are for crochet poppies, I decided to have a go at making my own:

First Petal;

Cast on 12 stitches. (Red Wool)

Pearl one row

Increase beginning (beg.) stitch, knit 5, increase 1, Knit 5, Increase end stitch. (15 stitches)

Pearl One Row (15 stitches)

Increase beg. stitch, knit 7, increase 1, Knit 6, Increase end stitch. (18 stitches)

Pearl one row (18 stitches)

Increase beg. stitch, knit 8, increase 1, Knit 8 Increase end stitch. (21 stitches)

Pearl 1 row (21 stitches)

Thread through the stitches and tie off. (leaving 20cm of thread to finish)

Second Petal;

Cast on 12 stitches. (Red Wool)

Pearl one row.

Increase beg. stitch, knit 5, increase 1, Knit 5, Increase end stitch. (15 stitches)

Pearl One Row (15 stitches)

Increase beg. stitch, knit 7, increase 1, Knit 6, Increase end stitch. (18 stitches)

Pearl one row (18 stitches)

Increase beg. stitch, knit 8, increase 1, Knit 8 Increase end stitch. (21 stitches)

Pearl one row (21 stitches)

Increase beg. stitch, knit 10, increase 1, Knit 9 Increase end stitch. (24 stitches)

Pearl one row (24 stitches)

Increase beg. stitch, knit 11, Increase 1 stitch, Knit 11 Increase end stitch. (27 stitches)

Thread through the stitches and tie off. (leaving 20cm of thread to finish)

Poppy Heart;

Cast on 12 stitches. (Brown Wool)

Pearl one row.

Knit one row.

Pearl one row.

Knit 2 together to end.

Thread needle through stitches and loosely stitch the exterior stitches to cup the centre

To make up;

The first petal loop is sewn through the second petal, to make a snowman shape when linked together. It is essential to keep the stitching neat if it is to be added to a pin or brooch. The heart is then sat in the centre of the flower, using red thread to the centre loop of the flower by the exterior stitches of the cup until secure. Once satisfied in the shape of the poppy secure the flower cut back the excess wool.

To add leaves;

Cast on 2 stitches. (Green Wool)

Pearl one row.

Increase beginning stitch, Increase end stitch. (knitting the stitches between)

Pearl one row.

Repeat for seven rows.

Decrease beginning stitch, decrease end stitch. (knitting the stitches between)

Pearl one row.

Repeat until last stitch and cast off.

To Make up;

Attach to the back of the flower ensuring they stretch out form between the conjoined petals.

To add a Stem;

Cast on twenty stitches (Brown wool)

Knit 4 rows and Cast off

To make up;

Stitch together edge to edge and tie off. (leaving 20cm to work)

Secure to the back of the flower at the centre of the heart. (cutting back excess wool)


As you can see it turned out quite well, although the picture does not do it justice due to the sparkly red wool that I chose. It took less than twenty minutes to make, for seasoned knitters you basically increase stitches at the beginning, centre and end for the petals and pearl between the knit rows.

It would not take long to produce a whole basket and repeating the second petal three times, around the centre heart you could make a large more symmetrical  oriental poppy instead. Whatever the use this quick project is one I will use again as it so simple to create, it is ideal for using up old wool and could easily be strung together to add a table drape or as a cascade arrangement on several strings across a ribbon.

Just a few things I may try if I get a little time!

Happy Knitting!





























Gardening on a budget, Grow Your Own, Harvests

GYO – Grapevine!

This morning as my daughter and I pottered around the garden I noticed the huge bunch of grapes which were nestled by the small greenhouse looked about ready to harvest. This vine was planted several years ago in another area of the garden, after moving it to site the summer-house, I positioned it into the ground at the centre of the south-facing fence. The heat of the sun stores in the wood and keeps the vine warm during summer months, this is why it grows prolifickly in its current position, without this it would struggle to produce fruit.

The vine has flourished in this position, however in subsequent years I have left the majority on for the birds. Thinking it would only take a few minutes I proceeded to cut the bunches from the main stem of the plant, after taking a few cuttings that were suitable for growing on for next year, these stems I trimmed the lower leaves and placed them around the edge of a large pot. By next year these should have rooted to produce a few new plants to Donate to a new home.

As I harvested them, handing them to my daughter to place into containers, I was surprised at the size of the bunches which were massive compared to previous years. As I picked them, clearing the leaves and broken fruit straight into the compost bin I soon had enough to fill two steamer trays and several fruit crates which I had saved from the fruit I buy weekly.

These plastic punnets I had previously used for my plum harvest in august, which filled over twenty punnets, but today my second fridge has two shelves full of grapes to eat or blend dependant on what I choose to make with them. They seem very bitter so I may make a grape juice or a wine to give as Christmas presents.

For once the grapes are large enough to harvest, and whatever the end product they are a great addition to the yearly harvest. Hopefully the vine at the allotment will begin to produce a few bunches in the next few years although I doubt it will produce as much as the home vine.

So if anyone has a good blend or recipe for grape juice or wine feel free to direct me, as this will be the first harvest I will actually be able to utilise for something other than feeding the blackbirds.

Happy Harvests!


Allotment, Gardening on a budget, Grow Your Own

DIY – The Broccoli Bed

This week our family commitments have restricted my ability to visit the allotment, my focus today is on the developments we managed in the last few weeks of the holidays. Previously in the year I had my horizontal covered bed, across from that I had dug my cauliflowers and cabbages into a narrow bed, which was on the opposite side, that I had covered with rebar arches and scaffolding mesh.

After clearing the last of the sleepers from the bottom of our home garden, my husband graciously sawing one of them in half, he positioned the raised bed around the planting on the narrow side of the path. I had purchased some cattle mesh to build some arches between my raised beds and border, which we supported with the remnants of an old greenhouse.

I secured the border with hinges and large nails so, that if the children climbed around the outside they would be secure enough to withstand it. It took around six bags of soil to fill in the end as I like it to be a decent depth and on the bottom layer I used a large cardboard box over old soil bags to ensure a reservoir level for the roots. The cardboard will eventually rot down but the depth of the soil which is around 5 inches, this will ensure anything planted will have strong root growth, and access to water at the base.

I have spent years growing a variety of plants with my children at home, mainly in compost in raised beds or containers. I find they are more confident planting direct into the compost rather than the ground and as we had a few sleepers leftover it seemed  like a good solution to encourage them to participate, using a medium they can enjoy.

The Broccoli I relocated from the horizontal bed at the side as I plant to add to the soil I reclaimed from the grass cutting compost bin, as this bed needed weeding anyway I took the risk to move them. I had planted the first seedlings into paper pots, as all of the research I had done had advised that broccoli did not like to be moved once planted. This however is not the case, as you can see above the plants have thrived and are now reaching up to the top of the cover.

Finally the archway will be to grow beans, gourds or tiny pumpkins next year with my new raised beds and arches, I plan to grow more varieties as the support will be already in place and I can rotate the crops per bed as required.

Happy Horticulture!


Family Postcards, Writing

POSTCARD – Bransby Horse Sanctuary

Another Petrol and pack-up priced excursion we have found was several years ago, we stumbled upon one summer when visiting some open gardens towards Lincoln. We had gone a little off track and found the sign post, not sure what to expect we parked up and went for a look around.

On arrival the parking was full so we followed the road a little further on to the field used for additional parking. Once we had collected our essentials we headed inside to find the entry was also free, extremely surprising for us as we had become used to paying at list thirty pounds for a farm based family excursion( only being a few of us back then!).

As we went through the shop to the courtyard there was a pleasant little café to our right but as we had arrived prepared with a pack up we set off out to see the Shetland Ponies. At the time we had a few training grounds but this became one for a specific reason, as my eldest had learning difficulties and soon diagnosed Autism he struggled with a lot of things.

As we walked the different fields they were enclosed by two fences between a three metre walkway, each section of walkway had a gate, as they were young and still learning distance boundaries these sections were perfect. They allowed the children relative freedom in the safe boundary and I could use clear instructions ie. wait, to set boundaries when they could physically go no further without a parent to open the gate. For lots of families who do not experience the processing delays and distractions which make simple journeys quite difficult, it may not seem a big deal but for children who have no fear, and are often in their own world this place was heavenly.

As I said that was several years ago now, however as they have grown we still have regular visits when possible, to enjoy watching the horses and visiting our favourites. It has changed a little over the years as they have added a gated play area and a small shop for selling bric-a-brac. It is a wonderful place which as the marker indicates has been running for 50 years.

Whether you are mad about horses or just want to try somewhere a little different this place is great, they have a picnic area set in a small field so if it is too busy at the park follow the first path to the left and head for the main stables, as you head past the block the field is on your right. This space is gated and provides hand washing facilities to ensure you can eat with ease, also the children can let off steam once they have finished their lunch.

As you cross the road to the second Gated Courtyard it opens out into another section of fields to visit Shetlands, Cobs and other breeds of horses. The walk can last a few hours or all day, they provide tours for schools and groups and have some great fun days were you can see the horses trotting around with carts.

This location can be an extremely pleasant visit on a weekday through schooldays with toddlers or on a weekend as a family! It is one of the few places were I always buy the children an ice cream or small toy, as they ask nothing to enjoy such a wonderful place.

Happy Memories!




5 ingredients recipes, Writing

Recipe – Flapjack Firsts!


  1. 350g of porridge oats.
  2. 250g of Dried sultanas or mixed fruit.
  3. 4-6 Table spoons of honey.
  4. 250g of brown sugar.
  5. 250g of butter.



Step 1 – Aprons and  Hand wash.

Step 2 – Weigh out Butter and sugar and place into a large pan, add the honey and bring to the boil.

Step 3 – Weigh out the oats and fruit and add to the melted contents of the pan.

Step 4 – Mix together until the oats and fruit are moist and bond together.

Step 5 – Grease a roasting tray or suitable oven tray and pour the ingredients into the tray and smooth until level.

Step 6– Cook in the oven at 180 degrees for twenty-five minutes or until gently browned.

Step 7 – Cut the flapjacks into squares and place to cool on a plate or baking tray.


In the near past at our house Saturday was cooking day, in the morning we would bake from a variety of favourite recipes and in the afternoon the children would make homemade Pizza. This was a well-loved routine until my previous cooker lost its element and had after ten years finally become un-repairable. Its replacement required additional trays to divide and was mainly grill heated, something I am not used to using so it has taken a while to adjust to when cooking and baking.

So Saturday morning I pulled out the recipes I had added to our summer programme and with the help of my youngest daughters chose to make Flapjacks for the first time. I prefer recipes which the children can complete from weighing out to serving, anything that requires additional heat I tend to avoid as I do not want the youngest over a hot pan.

After supervising the weighing out of the ingredients I set the pan on low to Caramelise the butter, sugar and honey, this recipe did say 4 spoons of honey but, as it was mixed together it clearly needed around 6 heaped spoons to ensure a thorough consistency which turned out to be the contents of the small jar I had purchased.

I did enjoy this as a quick project, they were extremely Moorish and did not last long, once they were cool enough to serve. I would like to add a thin layer of melted dark chocolate or chocolate chips and do a succession of batches to store. However, our first attempt was a triumph and I will definitely add it to our little recipe book, as the children could still measure the ingredients and serve.

Happy Baking!


Allotment, Grow Your Own

GYO – Late Sowing

After my great success with Broccoli I decided to set some seeds towards the end of the summer holidays, usually I focus on there planting as tiny seeds tend to be lost more than sown in young hands. The long-term crops, the ones that really add to your table are the ones that are most susceptible to damage from caterpillars and slugs.

I decided on setting some more Broccoli, Early purple sprouting and a few types of cabbage which included Greyhound, January king and Golden Acre as usual I watered and labelled them and placed them in the small greenhouse.

By the time the seedling emerged, the labels were blank so now in the second of my raised beds, by the looks of the seedlings I have some Early purple and possibly some January king cabbage as there are at least to crop types with a purple tinge to their leaves. Despite this I am grateful for another healthy crop, I have said I will grow some more cauliflowers however, It is something I can plant in the early months and set out with a little fleece for protection.

The focus is that I should be able to harvest them while my next years crop is establishing, as I hope to sow to ensure my ground is full and generating for the majority of the year. The reality is the ground retains its structure while planted, as I already have planned a yearly rotation to ensure at least one bed is manured annually, I hope to restore depletion through crop rotation and additionally by using nettle feed when I water.

My potatoes pretty much failed this year but with seed potatoes still set I would not be surprised if I did not get a surprise crop for Christmas as the cooler temperatures and increased rainfall set off un-germinated seed potatoes. If not as they re-grow I will relocate them to the appropriate location, as that bed is set to be trench manured for the sweetcorn and cucurbits next year.

With twelve weeks to our new addition, digging over will be completed as the crops are harvested or left until spring. I plan to invest on another damp proof membrane for my main beds, I find these at around £17 each from Screwfix cover the main bed and completely kills off any grass or weeds. I have one at the moment which I will use to cover the mixed bed once the beans and flowers die back, but another will ensure that whenever I can return to working (post delivery!) my large expanses will be covered and relatively weed free.

Today I hope to visit to check on the plants still maturing, to see whether my pumpkins are ready and fleece the plants that have been slow to set. After moving my courgettes I hope to see a few larger fruit but as always I will enjoy the small amount of time I get to forage and focus.

Happy Horticulture!


Gardening on a budget, Recycling

HORT – An Autumn Garden

Today was a preparation day, as the children focussed on their school work we set off to the shops. Generally I am a weekly shop only person but occasionally we need things outside the realms of our favourite store. Today was a mixed bag of general home supplies and my first plant indulgence since our Brassica’s in spring.

The B&Q store is one place I check for seasonal bargains, as my pots had frazzled this summer, my plants had been scooped out by my daughter earlier on in the year. Generally this time of year I like to spend a little money filling the pots on the decking outside our patio doors. For me this is therapy, firstly the enjoyment of building an Autumn container garden and secondly being able to enjoy the planting when the weather becomes unbearable for my daughter to venture outside.

On searching the store I noticed a pack of Heather, at six for £7 it is one of the only full priced plants I buy, there is nothing better than looking out at the colourful flower tips in the depths of winter. The next is Heuchera, originally these were £7, the tray I found in the sale area was spilling over with foliage and reasonably priced at £3, without a second thought I placed it in the basket.

The small trays of viola and Sweet William were next, across the stock benches the new stock were priced at 4 for £10, these little gems were in perfect health and in a variety of colours so after choosing the colours best to accent the Heather’s and deep green of the Heuchera I set off to the till.

The Viola’s – Harvest Kiss I chose two trays with fantastic flowers, Whereas the Sweet William were in three wonderful varieties, a simply named Red, Violet Flame and Violet Picotee. These trays were on sale for £1 each and I had no problem accepting the saving on wonderfully healthy plants.

I left with plants worth at retail £27, at the delightful cost of £15 and the promise of a beautiful Autumn garden to enjoy all the way through to spring. I knew that I had no soil, however I decided to repurpose the compost I had used to plant my seedling in from the greenhouse, hoping to have enough to fill the pots that balance on my Rill pond.

After finishing my household chores and collecting the children from school I returned to tackle the remnants of my Container Garden.  All of my pots have been collected over the years from car boot sales and markets, they generally are Italian in style and cost no more than a pound. This includes the white seashell planters that are hexagon in shape, I found they fit well with the Belfast sinks that I grow my vegetables in.

After laying out the plants for my metal tub, the plants left were a few ferns that had managed to survive the unusual weather. My youngest daughter placed the plants in the allotted spaces and I firmed them in, the compost was gritty and boggy with the wet weather.

I chose two urn style pots and Placed a Heather, Heuchera and a few well-chosen flowers to add some well needed contrast. I adore these pots especially with these planting combinations, I am hopeful these will last a few years but if not the visual display is well worth the annual outlay.

I finally worked on my balance pots, I tried to plant house leeks in summer but my youngest daughter and the dog had other ideas. This is the problem with teaching your children to grow from seed and plant when they are young, they tend to want to investigate post planting and I often find a plant hidden away in the bottom of the garden.

These pots are ideal for alpines, but today they are filled with a few flowers I planted in my hanging baskets, and a selection of Viola’s and Sweet Williams. I placed the larger flowers in the centre and intermittently planted the different types around the outside of the pot.

The soil I used was from my seed trays and pots in the small greenhouse, which I previously used to raise seedlings in spring. The compost was extremely dry but perfectly suitable to grow the small plants that were set in their new pots.

After Clearing my Belfast sink of Sweetcorn and Marmande tomato plants I began to place the green waste and old plants into the household compost bin. I found a few decent tomatoes during my clear out and set up the pressure washer to clear the decking of moss and soil shifted by the heavy rainfall over the last few weeks.

My two black wicker planters are usually at my front door, so after the photo above, my pots were returned to there place. The others however I will set around into position tomorrow, Usually they are positioned so that they can be viewed throughout the seasons, adding well needed colour to the cool days ahead.

Happy Horticulture!