Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas from Shoestring Garden!

Just a quick post to wish anyone who's been reading my pearls of wisdom ( or nonsense ramblings, which every way you look at it) a very Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Christmas Come Early!

A few weeks ago I got a very nice comment on my blog for Stephen Shirley over at Victoriana Nursery Gardens, Stephen had a proposal for me, he would supply me with some free packets of seeds and in return I would review how I got on with growing them! I'm a seed Guinea Pig!

So I had a happy few hours reading through their very nice web site and made these selections:

Onion Seed - Shirleys' Giant Exhibition

Spinach Seed - Little Grandad's Original

Squash Seed 'Crown Prince'

Sweetcorn Seed 'Seville'

Tomato Seed 'Giant Delicious'

Tomato Seed 'Sungold'

Artichoke Plant 'Imperial Star'

And on Saturday these showed up!

Ooooh thank you Father Christmas...I mean Stephen! So over the coming spring and summer I shall be testing my gardening skills (which lets face it are enthusiastic if not always fruitful), I am especially looking forward to the tomatoes, I've never grow them from seed before (usually I buy them at the local carboots!) also I cant wait to get the Artichoke plant ( which will be arriving around April/May time)
In the coming weeks the greenhouse will be getting a good tidy and clean out, seed pots sorted and hopefully the compost bin will provide me with enough of the good stuff that's been decomposing in there for the last year and a half! I will try to keep the post on my progress regular and as ever with plenty of pics, So a huge Thank You to the Shirley Family, I hope to do their lovingly produced seeds proud!

I do seem to be a very lucky girl at the moment as the seeds weren't the only prezzies I got early, over the weekend we went to Shropshire to see family and as we wont see most of them on Christmas Day we had ours with them on Sunday instead. My banging on about my blog and our veg patch has obviously payed off and Rich's Mum & Dad brought me these...

They gave us a few penny's to go and spend too so a quick trip to the garden center saw us in possession of a little lemon tree that is now happily sitting on our front room window sill...

Its all feeling very cosy and festive around here right now, Im really looking forward to next week, although Christmas Day may find me in the greenhouse playing with my presents!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Decembers Freecycle Goodness

Its been a busy few days around here, what with Christmas rapidly approaching and me not being organized as usual! We've also made some decisions about what we will be planting next year but I'll talk more about that in a later post.

We've had some good luck on good old Freecycle over the weekend, on Friday we drove to a very pretty house out in the woods to collect a car load of chopped wood offered to us by the lovely Michelle. We had burned most of our stock pile so this new stuff is drying out in our sunny greenhouse and should be ok to use in a couple of months!

Then this morning we drove out to another very lovely village on the out skirts of Bath to collect a Belfast sink, if you have read this blog before you will know my slight obsession with Belfast sinks, apart from anything I have found they are prefect for growing salad leaves in (which sort of explains why we have quite a few now!) Anyway when we eventually arrived at this gorgeous old chapel we found a cute little Butlers sink waiting for us, then the lovely Laurel who answered the door said they had another one we could have too! Hooray!

Rich managed to manhandle them into the back of our poor little car (We're seriously considering swapping it for a van!) and tried to avoid the many pot holes on the way home!

Here he is adding it to the 2 we already have on the veg garden.

Yay, now we have 3! These are going to be used to grow various salad leafs (mostly Spinach as its our favorite) each sink will have staggered planting to last us through the spring and summer.

The little Butlers Sink has been put up on the patio by the front door, I may grow herds in this or possible Sweet Peas for cutting.

Ooooh its like Christmas come early round here!

So a huge Thank You to Michelle, Laurel and To for being so generous to total strangers!!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Garden Jobs For Winter

I finally managed to get in the garden on Sunday, good job too as I have a list of winter jobs I need to be getting on with, unfortunately most of them require the use of our greenhouse, which at the moment is housing a small mountain of stuff to either go to the recycling center or the local charity shop (this is what happens when you finish decorating your cottage that's to small for all the wonderful treasures you try to cram into it!)

Anyway, one of the first task was to trim the apple trees, I didn't do it last year as they hadn't long been planted and there wasn't much growth so I though I'd give them another year to really settle in, however they got a bit leggy over the summer so this winter I have trimmed them quite hard back to encourage them to thicken up a bit and hopefully improve next years crop.

I have stored the off cuts to dry out in the greenhouse to we can burn them on the stove, we didn't get much more that a few twigs off them but I hate to waste anything so on the fire they'll go.

Unfortunately my Cauliflowers have bitten the dust this year, it was the first time I had attempted to grow them so was hoping at least one of them would make it to the table. Sadly the sharp night frost's in October seem to have finished them off before they where big enough to do anything with! I'm gutted as I was really looking forward to eating fresh Cauliflower, I should have had some sort of cold frame over them but could stretch to buying one and didn't have enough stuff to make one, I'll know better next time!

Anyway they had to come out and go in the compost bin, the Broccoli on the other hand seems to be surviving ok and has put on more growth. The trouble is we're quite exposed being on the side of a hill facing south, great in the summer for the sun but we cop the wind and ice in the winter.

Other winter jobs include...

Tiding the greenhouse

Planting up garlic in pots in greenhouse

Digging up Blueberry bushes and moving them into a raised bed to stop them being swamped by grasses and weeds.

Scrubbing brick paths clear of moss (so they stop being so slippy)

Working on Rich to let me have a few chickens ( I suggested asking for them as a wedding present!)

Ordering seeds for next season, planning where everything will go!

I'll be making up my list of plants for next year in the next couple of days so I'll post as soon as I've decided what we'll be attempting, I really want to give Sweet Corn a try and some sort of Squash although I don't know which one? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Things To Do When Your Not Gardening

The post's have been a little light on the ground recently, mostly because there's not much going on in the garden right now and its just too damn cold to go out and sweep up leaves!

Another reason is Rich and I have been desperately trying to save money (like everyone else right now!) and when I go in the greenhouse I realize I need to buy more seed's, compost, a cold frame, the list goes on! So I've been avoiding it!

Anyway, today we decided to have a day out and away from the long list of jobs that needed doing on the cottage and garden and went into Bath. We're very luck in that we live on the outskirts of the city and can walk in, thus avoiding paying through the nose to park or take the bus. As usual for a Saturday near Christmas the place was swarming with tourist's all heading for the Bath Christmas Market, this is a really lovely event held yearly next door to the Abbey and the Roman Baths, marred only slightly by the huge number of people all trying to squeeze in to a very small square. Sadly actually getting to see any on the products on display was damn near impossible so we gave up and went to the Victoria Art Gallery as this free to go in and was decidedly free of tourists! This is the only problem living in a world heritage site, the number of visitor's in summer and Christmas goes through the roof, but I suppose they are bringing much needed money into local businesses so I can't complain too much as I now work part time in one of them!

Anyway, I love going to the Victoria, its quite a hidden little gallery but they always have some amazing stuff on show, in their entrance hall they have one of my favourite sculptors ever...

This is 'Lady-Hare on Dog' by Sophie Ryder, I absolutely love this and have to go and have a look at it every time we go.

You can see where Dog's nose has gone shiny because everyone strokes him as they go in!

After this we have a walk around the city which is looking very pretty with the Christmas decorations up, one of my favourite things in Bath at this time of year is the Merry-go-round which they set up near the Christmas Market.

It looks so beautiful with all its lights on and the old fashioned music, really magical!

And as I love it some much Rich managed to scrap together his last few coppers and got us 2 tickets to have a ride!!

Ooooh look...action shots!

He's so good to me! Maybe I'll do the gardening tomorrow instead!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Here Comes Winter!

You can feel Winter rushing head long at us here, Bath has been cloaked in gray damp coldness for weeks now, which has put me off doing the jobs I should be doing on the veg patch! Another sign of the approaching season is the cat is not happy about being turfed out for the night, she does sort of cling limpet like to Rich.

The veg garden had been getting a bit over run with the Nasturtiums I planted in the spring, they have been wonderful for keeping the slugs, snails and most of the caterpillars aways from my other plants, sadly one morning last week after a particularly hard night frost I came out to see this sight...

I had to clear this up as soon as possible as it looked so bloody awful, the frost turned the Nasturtiums to slimy mush so it was lots of fun pulling all this up and squeezing it into the compost bins.

The Broccoli and the Cauliflowers seem ok, although I thing the Cauli's are suffering from the frost a bit too.

Another little job I've been meaning to finish up was the brick border for the veg patch, I started it weeks ago then the weather closed in, plus I started a new part time job which has thrown my schedule out (excuses, excuses!!).

One of the major off puts of this job was prising out the old rotten wood and concert broads that have been there for years (the wood is lethal slippy when wet). I almost gave myself a hernia trying to lift some of these...

I eventually got it done and was quite please with the finished job, then Rich came out and pointed out the it was a bit wonky in places and some of the bricks needed to be sunk deeper or the would just roll out on to the path, so I generously let him relay a few bits...

Now it looks perfect!

As Rich was out side and quite obviously didn't have anything better to do (like work, sleep or any one of the two hundred jobs on the house) I made him help me tidy up the greenhouse, the tomatoes had just about gone over and the Aubergine had had it, so everything was bagged up to go to the recycling center and my Geraniums from the patio have been put the bed for the Winter in there too.

They are apparently not the only thing trying to sleep through the winter in here...

My poor grape, I hope it survives this tough love!

Sunday, 12 October 2008



I was pretty busy trying to get some artwork finished but I managed to squeeze in a hour or so to do some much needed weeding.

The Cauliflowers are starting to show their heads now, am getting excited imagining fresh cauliflower cheese!

We have 5 cauli's in, only 4 seem to be doing well, I think the 5th got a bit too munched by the caterpillars.

I spent the rest of the time in the garden digging up a load of potato's, we had finally use up all the ones I had squeezed into the fridge so I dug another large bucket full, that should keep us going for a while.

While I was doing all this Rich was chopping up a load of the gash wood we where given a few months back, its love dry pine and makes fantastic kindling.

And lastly before I finally gave up and went in to make mash spuds, I picked the apples from the eating apple tree, they had developed funny mottled spots all over them, I had been leaving them alone and hoping this was just the usual dimples and marks you get on home grown apples (as a possessed to the picture perfect ones in the supermarkets) but the spots have been looking more like some sort of fungus and I saw something that looked similar on Gardeners World the other week . They said to strip all the apples off and take them to a recycling center (if it is a disease and the apples when in the compost bin then it will just live in there till it can infect the trees again, recycling center usual hot compost which kills the bacteria)
Anyone else come across this on their apples?


As usual it started with a trip to the car boot sale, next week is the last one before winter, how will I cope till next Easter when they start again!!!

Anyway I managed to grab some really beautiful old french coat hooks for £3, bargain!

When we got back I finally tackled a job I've been meaning to do for weeks, I trimmed our lavender bushes outside the front patio. It was a bit of a shame as they look so pretty but the lavender heads where starting to turn brown and die of anyway.

Every year I dry the lavender and keep it, it is great for making last minute birthday and Christmas presents or as we're starting to plan our wedding for next year so possible confetti?! I will leave it hanging in the greenhouse for a month or 2 to really get all the moisture out of it then store it in kilner jars in the house. I also did a bunch of rosemary this year too as the little bush of it I have has really gone mad this summer.

Now on to the best bit of the day, the laying of yet more bricks in the veg patch (for anyone who is new to this blog, please read back through the archive, and you'll see I'm slightly obsessed with the use of bricks in the garden!!) anyway, I had yet again got some bricks from the local Freecycle, and they have been waiting partially for me to do something with them.
I have used them to replace the old rotten wood borders of the veg patch, which are lethal slippy when wet.

So now we have this...

Happiness is a brick boarded veg garden!!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A Belated Thank You

Its a bit late in coming, mostly because I kept forgetting to down load the photos of the camera, but here it is, our tiled living room floor

So a huge, huge thank you to Richard and his Dad Rick, who both worked tirelessly for a week to get this done, thanks to Rick for giving up a week of his well earned holiday (and thank you to Rich's Mum for lending him to us!), I fear we may have ruined Rick's knees forever!
Thanks to Richard who spent months cleaning and dressing the tiles (I helped a bit, but Rich did the lions share!) then spend several days getting drenched trying to cut the tiles in a monsoon and gale force winds!

I also need to say thank you to my Mum and Dad who where kind enough to drive to Derby and back to collect 280 tiles I brought on ebay and thank you to Rich's mum for letting us keep them all in her garage (some of them are still there!)

I'm so chuffed with this floor, it looks beautiful and more importantly looks like it has been here for about 200 years!

Arrr only 2 more rooms to go before the ground floor is finished! I may need to give Rich and Rick 6 months to recover!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Finally, A Little Sun

Mmmmm, love the sun shine, was so nice to get in the garden and not need wellies!

We had a pretty busy weekend again, I finally got the pea frame dismantled and put away, I've been meaning to get round to it for a couple of weeks but I really couldn't be bothered to get drenched doing it!

Anyway this is what it looked like before

and here it is after some energetic digging over

and here's where I was starting to plant some more rows of carrots.

Thank god that's done, it was starting to look really messy.

One other job I have also been meaning to do was plant out a tree our neighbour left us when she moved out, I was a bit surprised when she gave me this pretty big apple tree which was squeezed in a tiny pot. I've been waiting to rescue it for a few weeks and it finally went into its new home down in our mini orchard on Saturday.

Now the fact that it was in such a small container had worried me a bit as although fruit tree don't mind being grown in tubs they have to be big enough to give them some room, here's the pot it was in...

I dug a good hole for it and put some compost in the bottom, then I tried to remove the pot. I have never see a plant more pot bound before, I also discover that this woman hadn't bothered to drill any holes in the pot for drainage, half the roots where rotting from sitting in this manky pool of water! It is at this point I should mention that I have promised my Mum I would stop swearing on this blog, so I wont tell you what I think of people like this!

Anyway, I trimmed the rotted roots and planted it with crossed fingers, I gave it a good watering and will just have to hope it makes it. It hasn't got a vast amount of room in our garden but anythings better than that pot!

Sunday was another lovely day and we managed to get out blackberry picking, something I've been promising Rich we'd do for a while. We came back with a huge tub and have since enjoyed a pretty good blackberry and rhubarb crumble and there's still loads left!

There's a hill near our house which is great for blackberries, and also has a fabulous view on a sunny day!

I hope next weekend is as nice!

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Tin Church Fete

Sorry for not posting for well over a week, has been madness here what me trying to find another part time job as I've jut been informed my current one will be terminated come October!! it never rains but it pours!

Anyway we had a really nice weekend so that cheered us up a bit, my sister Sal and her boyfriend Ollie came to stay, my sister is a jewelery designer (among other things) and has just finished her official web site which I am shamelessly going to put a link to as I promised her I would: Ollies Dolly!.
As is usual with most of our guests they were dragged out of bed on Sunday morning and forced to go car booting (as its been rained off for the last 3 weeks and i was get withdrawal symptoms!) it turned out to be a blinder and we came back with some brilliant swag (which i forgot to photograph before they when home!)

Then on to the main event of the weekend and the reason they had dragged themselves up the M4 in their complaining little car, the local village fete, know by everyone in Bath as The Tin Church Fete!

The Fete has been held every year for god knows how long in the little field opposite The Tin Church, the church is actually not a church any more (De-commissioned in the late 70's I think) and is now home to Graham, local artist and nutter who takes on the mammoth task of organizing the fete, all money of which gets donated to child line.

I absolutely love this old church, it's a bit of a local land mark, every couple of years Graham has to replace the corrugated iron which its made from with new as it rusts though, hence the slightly shinny looking roof and bell tower.

The lane runs between the church and the field so you do get the odd motorist who tries to force their way though just so they can us this local short cut, they usually get a fare amount of abuse for this!
As you can see they build the stage for the bands in front of the church, so everyone had a pretty good view.

Most importantly here's the bar called 'The Moon on a Stick'.

here we are making use of the bar...

Here's the first of the bands, I think they were called The Mighty Pea, although I could be wrong so don't quote me, I've never heard versions of Eminem, Greenday and Girls Aloud quite like it, they also some how managed to heckle the passing traffic while singing, they were brilliant!!

They where follow by Sargent Peppers Only Dart Bored band who where pretty good too!

Around 3 o'clock Samba Sulis, a local drumming band appeared to officially open the Fete.

They where joined by Lady Margarette (guy from the local theater group in a delightfully spotty dress and hat) who always opens the fete, this year she was carried through the field in a litter, last year she appeared in a replica of the Tardis (complete with sound effects) and the year before that she parachuted in then claimed over the roof of the church, to much applause!

Here he (sorry she) is abusing a chap who decided to drive his big blue van past just as she was cutting the opening ribbon, snapping it in half! that was some brilliant language and before the watershed too!!

Around 4 is the balloon release from the church tower, this involves Graham and volunteers filling the whole tower with helium balloons then opening the bit where the bell used to hang to let them go.

So basically a brilliant time was had by all, its so nice that this little village fete still exists and hopefully will continue to do so, although Rich's back may not recover from helping to put the tents up!