Katy’s The Good Life in Practice

An update from The Good Life In Practice:

So a lot has been happening in the growing season these last few months! The weather has got truly warmer and the rain has indeed helped the plants to push on. Here is a quick round up of what has been happening here…

Katy pictures

The tomato plants have well and truly flourished and I have added supports (small canes) for each of them so they can grow straight upwards-cannot wait for juicy tomatoes from these! The mixed salad seed mix, watercress seed mix and sorrel seed mix have been so easy to use too. I simply planted them in pots around the patio and they have sprouted up fresh leaves. This has been perfectly timed for making summer salads for dinners.

Katy's produce

Katy’s produce

Additionally, another supplement to salads has been the different varieties of nasturtiums I have tried. I have included some photographs of two types I have been using thus far in salads and in nasturtium leaf pesto recipes. Herbs such as chives have flowered and the beautiful, deep purple blooms on top have again been perfect for topping salads or pasta dishes. Moreover, when I get low on salad leaves between cropping’s I add pea shoots to the mix – these are so easy to simply cut off the top of pea crops and they quickly grow back. The spring onions tapes have been a triumph and are gradually growing as we speak. The easy seed tapes have meant I haven’t really had to worry about spacing or weeds as it is self-sufficient in this respect – a great, revolutionary idea.

Selection of Katy's flowers from the garden

Selection of Katy’s flowers from the garden

The big success has been the fruit bushes. My raspberry canes from Thompson & Morgan – including Glen Moy have been so successful again this year. It has been marvellous to pop down to sort the chickens of a morning and graze on fresh, plump raspberries on the journey down the garden! I have been lucky enough to have a successful blueberry bush, currants and gooseberry bush as well.

Katy's kitchen garden

Katy’s kitchen garden

The dwarf runner beans I am excited for too. They are just perfect for pots on the patio if you haven’t got a mountain of space in your garden – mine are potted up near the peas and thriving. Again runner beans are a firm favourite not just for eating on their own but also they are a great addition to chutney making.

More of Katy's great produce

More of Katy’s great produce

Lots more to share next time and hopefully some recipes too, Katy, The Good Life In Practice

Katy Runacres
Katy is a smallholder, cook and writer. She keeps Chickens, Bantams, Meat Rabbits and has a resident cat called Podge. She takes an interest in all aspects of homesteading and has written pieces for a number of magazines including Backwoods Home, Bushcraft, Country Smallholding, Home Farmer and Smallholder. Katy is a member of the Essex and Suffolk Poultry Club and has a Diploma in Countryside Management.

Summer Gardening

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are all well, and enjoying the beautiful summer days. Our weather in Neyland has been erratic, if there’s one thing we can bet on at the moment is that there are no two days the same. If it’s not twenty seven degrees Celsius and cloudless it’s foggy, damp humid and uncomfortable. Oh and don’t forget the heavy rain, thunder and winds. The poor plants have taken a battering. Although luckily for me most have bounced back, it’s only Petunia ‘Anna’ that seems to be struggling.

Petunia 'Anna', Cosmos 'Xanthos' & Hollyhock 'Excelsior Hybrid Mixed'

Petunia ‘Anna’, Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ & Hollyhock ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’

Like last month I have not done as much in the greenhouses as I would have liked to, this is because I have been unwell again for over two weeks, with a gastric bug, that put me in hospital for five days and because I was in my local hospital the specialist hospital sixty miles away had to cancel my operation as I was too unwell to attend, which is frustrating as I have to wait for a new admission date.

Whilst in hospital I used my visualisation technique to help me through the procedures including trying to name in alphabetical order plants growing in my garden whilst I was having a brain scan. I was quite impressed on two accounts; one that I only got to the letter K before the procedure was over, and two I have a brain! In case your interested I have apples, biden, cosmos, Dianthus ‘Elephants Ear’, foxglove, gazania, hollyhock, ivy, Viola ‘Jonny Jump Up’ and as for K well it was all over then. I am saving the rest of the alphabet for when I go for surgery.
I was discharged on Friday the fifteenth and as soon as I got home I did another garden inspection. The corcockles had gone to seed as had most of the wildflower border, the peas had finished and the Lambs Ears had flowered.

On Saturday I felt really well so I thought I would spend ten minutes in the greenhouse cutting the lower leaves off the tomatoes as they had gone wild. It was warm in there but not uncomfortable, when I got to tired to continue, I realised I had been thirty minutes instead of ten, which really made me smile as it made me feel that I was stronger than I thought I was, happy, relaxed and grateful to be alive. And I was rewarded with my first ripe Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’.

Amanda's Tomato 'Magic Mountain' in different stages of growth

Amanda’s Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ in different stages of growth

To eat my first tomato of the season was so special, firstly because it’s a new variety for 2016 and it’s the first tomato I have ever grown from seed (I usually buy plug plants,) and secondly because there had been days when I thought I would never get to try them as I felt so ill. Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ are really tasty, the smell of the vine stays on them long after they are picked, which makes them feel super fresh even if you eat them a day or two after picking. They are bigger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a salad one. The skin was a little bit hard, but that may be due to not having enough sun here. The flesh is thick for a small tomato, but it’s firm and succulent. There are hardly any pips, so fussy eaters should be happy. As there have only been one or two that have been ready since Friday they didn’t get as far as a sandwich or anything more interesting, however, I can’t wait to fry them with some butter, mushrooms, aubergine, sweet peppers basil and oregano. Then scatter them with some cheddar cheese on a warm crusty roll.

 

Amanda's produce

Amanda’s produce

Talking about aubergines, the ones opposite my tomato vines are doing much better than last year, the leaves are bigger and they are now starting to flower, the reason they are doing better is because they are receiving a lot more sunlight from early morning than they were in the opposite side of the greenhouse, and as we have kept the tomatoes to only four to five feet tall they are getting the sun for longer in the afternoon too.

The peppers seeds ( T&M Sweet Bonita) that Blogger Jean Willis gave me, have produced some of the best pepper plants I have ever grown, and they are 100% better than last year’s garden centre plant bought. The leaves are even and shiny, within no bare patches or uneven growth. There are a lot more flowers on them than other varieties I have grown, and which the bees are happy to pollinate for me.

Unfortunately, the Rubin be Lemonade Basils have bolted, but the flowers are so pretty I’ve just let them continue as they are. The leaves taste slightly more bitter, but I am wondering if I should collect their seeds to see if they have cross pollinated. It would be amazing if I could come up,with a green and burgundy striped basil, or a new tasting one. Knowing my luck though I’d probably end up with something that tastes disgusting and looks like an alien.

Sweet Pepper 'Bonita' & Cucamelon 'Melothria

Sweet Pepper ‘Bonita’ & Cucamelon ‘Melothria

The cucumelons and squashes that I had from another company, really are not doing that well at all. They are small and weak growing, and the leaves seem to be more of a pale green than they should be,they are having the same care and attention as any other plants we have, with the same watering and feed. Carelessly whoever packed the plants sent the wrong instructions too, as they sent me the leaflet for how to grow your tomatoes and peppers! I have used the company before, but I won’t by plug plants from them again. However the cucamelons in the small greenhouse seem to be ok. The chilli plant that I had from them died after a few weeks too. Poor Mark won’t have any sweet chilli chutney this year as I lost my baby chilli plants when I first got ill in May.

In the small greenhouse the money tree is really thriving, as are the Aloe Vera’s. The shelves are still bare, as I haven’t done any seed sowing, and I’m feeling frustrated as now would be a good time to start off the winter veg, such as cabbage, turnips and swede. I know we are lucky in this region that I can sow seeds even up to September and October and still get a good crop, but I hate seeing things empty. I did think about setting some seeds, but I know in the next few weeks they won’t have my full attention so it would be a bit of a pointless exercise.

Bidens 'Pink Princess' & Gazania 'Big Kiss White Flame' F1 Hybrid

Bidens ‘Pink Princess’ & Gazania ‘Big Kiss White Flame’ F1 Hybrid

For the first time in years, I have nothing to plant in the bare soil now my corncockles have been dug up. Usually the space is filled with dahlias, amaranthus, marigolds and any other plants I happen to be growing, so I am tempted to go to the garden centre and buy some bedding plants. At least these will be established and I can plant them straight away. I did think of getting them from T&M special offers, but being on the cancellation list at the hospital I can’t take the chance on waiting for delivery.

My trial Bidens are still flowering, they are still white, pink, and pink and white ringed. They have taken the wildly fluctuating temperatures, the winds and rain and as long as they are deadheaded regularly continue to bloom.

The trial antirhinums that were in with a pot of petunias survived two days upside down on the grass when the bracket holding the heavy pot fell out of the wall. Not sure how the bracket fell out though, Mark is usually good at DIY. The plants were not damaged at all which really impressed us.

The trial trailing fuschias are just beautiful. The ones in pots out the front aren’t growing as well as the ones that are in the more sheltered back garden. Every morning I open my bedroom curtains and look out at three pots of pinky/purple/red fuschias, roses, veronica, poppies, sage, mint and lavender, the scent in the mornings is delicious.
I am hoping by August my operation will have been done, and that I am on the road to recovery. I have promised my nieces to bring down fresh peppers and aubergines. My brother still hasn’t put up his greenhouse so mum is babysitting his tomato plants, and his aubergines are in pots in my small greenhouse. I have a sneaky feeling he won’t finish his greenhouse until next year.

So here’s looking forward to new and tasty fresh vine fruit and veg, time spent with the family and long sunny days.

Take care, and happy gardening,

Love Amanda.

PS Thank you to everyone who continues to share their gardening adventures with me on Facebook, I love the photos from Geoff and Caroline’s open days for McMillan and NGS open days, to T&Ms Jimmys Farm posts. I love hearing people’s successes as well as problem solving hints and tips. Believe me, it really does make my day.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Suffolk train stations back in bloom

The colour has again returned to Ipswich and Stowmarket train stations thanks to a partnership between train operator Abellio Greater Anglia, local seed and plant specialist Thompson & Morgan and Ipswich-based charity Activlives. In a repeat of last year’s hanging basket displays of Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’, volunteers, work placements and young learners from ActivLives have been busy this spring growing baskets of Thompson & Morgans’ best selling begonia, but looking to add scent as well as colour to the platforms for 2016 Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ has been added to the mix.

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan, ActivLives' gardeners and Jackie Station Manager at Ipswich

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan, ActivLives’ gardeners and Jackie Station Manager at Ipswich

Not only will the baskets brighten up the journeys of everyone who passes through the stations on the London to Norwich mainline, the project has provided local young people with valuable horticultural experience. Participants from a number of organisations, including WS Training, Talent Match and Seetec, take part in training programmes at ActivLives’ two garden projects in Ipswich to gain skills for work.

The Activlives team planted up the baskets back in April. They have since tended the choice Begonia blooms at the glasshouses in the walled garden at Chantry Park, bringing them into peak condition for display at the rail stations.

Ipswich Station Thompson Morgan with ActivLives' gardeners

Ipswich Train Station with Thompson & Morgan Blooms

Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord said: “We were pleased with last year’s baskets, but Activlives has outperformed themselves this year, with bigger better baskets for the best impact. Planted in incredicompost® and fed with incredbloom® at planting time, these baskets are looking stunning and will continue to perform right through to autumn, with minimal care from station staff – spent flowers simply fall off to be replaced by fresh new blooms. The addition of Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ should really lift the spirits of workers on their daily commute and make a warm welcome for visitors and tourists passing through both stations.”

Begonia 'Fragrant Falls' & Begonia 'Fragrant Falls' at Ipswich Station

Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls’ & Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ at Ipswich Station

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

Biennial inspirations

It’s biennial time again.
As our Aquilegias, Digitalis, Erysimums and Myosotis finish flowering, it is time once again to sow next year’s new ones to ensure that we get as good, if not better, display as this year.

Aquilegia 'Green Apples', Aquilegia 'Firecracker' & Belle perennis 'Pomponette Mixed'

Aquilegia ‘Green Apples’, Aquilegia ‘Firecracker’ & Belle perennis ‘Pomponette Mixed’

This biennial cycle goes on in our gardens almost without us noticing it, as various plants self-seed in the quieter corners of our gardens. Plants such as forget-me-nots (Myosotis) can pop up almost anywhere if we leave the parent plants to seed in May and June. This happens in the wild as well, with plants such as hedge garlic/jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata) seeding themselves at this time of year in the bottoms of farm hedges – the seeds then germinate before winter, surviving the harsh winter weather as young plants that then flower in spring/early summer. The parent plants die as they drop their seed.

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrid Mixed', Foxglove 'Silver Cub' Myosotis 'Symphony Blue'

Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrid Mixed’, Foxglove ‘Silver Cub’ Myosotis ‘Symphony Blue’

So, what can you sow now that are grown as biennials? The starting point is to look for the letters HB at the beginning of the description of the plant. Sow Aquilegias cultivars now and watch out for a stunning display in May and early June – I like the look of ‘Green Apples’ and ‘Firecracker’ as interesting variations on the normal range of colours. Bellis ‘Pomponette Mixed’, although actually a perennial, is normally grown as a biennial and looks fabulous in the spring garden and in containers. It is loved by bees as well so we all win!
For something a little unusual, try Cabbage ‘Northern Lights Mixed’ with various foliage colours to delight you and your friends. If you leave them in until early summer they will flower and the yellow flowers are edible  – yummy!! Dianthus barbatus, more commonly known as Sweet William, gives a stunning display in early to mid summer and there are a number of wonderful cultivars to choose from. Foxgloves (Digitalis) have come a long way in recent years from their biennial wild relatives and the range of colours and forms is worth studying, from ‘Excelsior Hybrids’ up to 1.5 metres to ‘Silver Cub’ at only 60cm high.

Dianthus barbatus 'Excelsior Mixed', Pansy 'Majestic Giants Mixed' & Viols 'Sorbet Orange Jump Up'

Dianthus barbatus ‘Excelsior Mixed’, Pansy ‘Majestic Giants Mixed’ & Viols ‘Sorbet Orange Jump Up’

Pansies and Violas are amongst of the most popular winter and spring flowering plants for containers in our gardens and, although they are classified as perennials, we do tend to grow them as biennials. The flowers are edible as well as colourful and one of my all-time favourites is ‘Majestic Giants’ with flowers up to 10cm across. Wallflowers (Erysimums) are one of the more traditional biennial plants used by local authorities and larger public gardens for spectacular spring displays. Try ‘Tom Thumb Mixed’ for an easy to manage cultivar with a wide range of flower colours from yellows to rusts and reds. It works well in a container because it only reaches 20cm high.

Cabbage 'Northern Lights', Calenduala officinalis nana 'Fruit Twist' & Nigella papillosa 'Midnight'

Cabbage ‘Northern Lights’, Calenduala officinalis nana ‘Fruit Twist’ & Nigella papillosa ‘Midnight’

Some plants can be nudged into a biennial life-cycle just by changing the sowing dates. Plants such as Calendula, Limnanthes and Nigella can be sown directly into the garden in late September, will germinate quickly in the warm soil and will then overwinter as young plants, flowering in April and May for instead of June, July and August. These plants are normally sold as hardy annuals for direct spring sowing. Give it a try and surprise yourself and your neighbours.
Whatever you grow now for your winter and spring garden, enjoy the surprises that these wonderful plants can give you.

Graham Porter

Graham Porter
I have worked in horticulture for the past 49 years and have become more involved with and concerned about the environmental impact that our profession has had on the world. I am married with 2 grown up children and 4 wonderful grandchildren. I am currently writing my first book that reflects my thoughts on gardening / horticulture in an environmentally friendly manner.

Gardening is great therapy

Summer greetings gardeners,

Hope you are all well. I have spent the last two weeks sitting in my garden everyday in hot sunshine, I’ve eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner on the patio with family and friends and I’m loving every minute of it.

I have a confession to make though, Mark and my mum have been doing the greenhouse duties for me. I have decided to be supervisor until I am stronger. Unfortunately not long after writing Mays blog I was struck with a medical emergency (not related to my heart condition) that put me in hospital for nine days. It also coincided with the hottest week of the year, a delivery of plants, and a build it yourself solar lighted trellis planter. Poor Mark would spend most of the day at the hospital with me, return home to feed himself and water the plants then rush back to the hospital to be with me. To be honest I don’t know how he and the plug plants, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, and numerous plant pots and hanging baskets survived.

Digitalis

Unfortunately, not all of the plants survived, I have lost my Banksia Hookerensia and most of my seedlings, apart from some mint and dill. The first thing I did when I came out of hospital was a garden inspection. I cried when I saw my wildlife border it was so pretty filled with poppies, foxgloves, corncockles and lupins. Then I tied in the eating peas and sweet peas.

The next day I asked mum to help with the new planter Mark had built one evening, that I had from Thompson & Morgan as I had nicotianas, sweetpeas, petunia, and a dwarf mallow that needed potting up, as well as the geraniums. Seeing all the failed germinated seedlings also made me sad, so I asked mum to empty the soil into the established outdoor pots rather than waste the compost.

Inside the little greenhouse I have the mint and dill, a few hebes that we have collected from around the garden and growing on so that we can make a new hedge, our aloe border and two cucamelons and a small pot of lettuce. At least Mark thinks they are, he can’t remember if they were them or the squashes as ‘they all looked the same”, he says.

Amanda's garden

In the big greenhouse we have the basils, aubergines, chillies, sweet peppers and tomatoes all romping away happily in the borders, there is possibly a cucamelon in there too. Mark has pinched out the tips on the tomatoes, but needs to get in there and cut back some of the stems. There are flowers forming on the trusses as well as tiny fruits.

Amanda's Garden

As I have had so many people back and forth to see me these last few weeks, I feel a bit of a fraud as my greenhouses are not looking their best. And it’s amazing how many people just want to have a look at what’s inside them. It a big compliment but dirty pots and clutter is not the look I wanted. As I said to mum I’ve never had such an empty small greenhouse in June. Sadly I can’t plan any seed sowing and growing at the moment as my illness means I will be going for surgery and possibly further treatments. It’s not fair to ask Mark or mum to look after the plants as well, as look after me. I’m just happy to watch the things we already have growing.

Amanda's Garden

Being part of the T&M social community has really helped
( Wendie and the rest of the team have been supportive too), because if I can’t get out into my own garden, I can read the other blogs or connect to their Facebook pages and look at photos of other people’s gardens. When I was in hospital my garden and greenhouses seemed to be calling for me to get better and get back out there. I so wanted to see the new planter and my potatoes and flowers and I even had a discussion with the Radiographer about how successful my aubergine seed germination was, he said his was terrible, we also discussed what else was thriving during a particularly painful procedure.

Amanda's Garden

My blogs might be on hold for a while as I have to concentrate on fighting my illness and getting stronger, but I promise you, if I am well enough to get into the garden, then I will be well enough to supervise Mark and write about our greenhouses once again, in the meantime, please keep posting your gardening endeavours – it really does cheer up my day.

Until next time,

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda xxx

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

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