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.

So Much To Do – So Little Time

I hate gardening! Our 18 year old acer Bloodgood has died; it resided in a huge terracotta planter on the patio so replacing it will be disruptive and expensive. Melianthus major, focal point of the hot border, followed in its footsteps (rootsteps?) shortly after. Digging that up was no joke (so why are you all laughing?) The root ball was solid with finger thick roots that had anchored themselves under all neighbouring perennials, so the whole lot had to come out and be replanted afterwards. Then a branch of our ancient lilac came down in the recent windy spell, straight across the barbecue (could have been worse, we might even have wanted to use it this summer). Finally I discovered that the potting tray containing my own mix of compost, water retaining gel and T&M incredibloom® had become a giant litter tray! Oh joy.

Brunnera 'Alexander's Great' & Fred having an identity crisis!

Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’ & Fred having an identity crisis!

Still, the hanging baskets have all been planted up, with four extras in dappled shade: two on the patio combining ipomoeas with T&M begonias, and two in the fernery with hostas (how do those snails manage to get up there?), heucheras and some lovely as-yet-unnamed T&M trial bidens. Very impressive bidens they are too; within four weeks their 9cm pots were full of roots. These compact plants are already in flower, their delicate white petals blushed with pale pink, belying their robust form.

Petunia 'Mandevilla' & Cucamelons on the go!

Petunia ‘Mandevilla’ & Cucamelons on the go!

So now that all the baskets are planted up – Crazytunia Mandevilla and Bidens Bee Dance Painted Red already in flower – I can concentrate on the greenhouse crops. Tutti Frutti cordon tomatoes are in the raised bed. Shame I didn’t realise that they came in three different varieties; I’ll just have to wait and see which is which! Chillies have gone in with them to maximise space. The canes supporting the three cucamelon vines are not going to be sufficient so David is going to rig up some mesh for them and whilst he’s at it he can put up some wires for the cucumbers I have yet to plant (David are you reading this?) It’s only an 8ft x 4ft structure, not Kew Gardens, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

Digitalis 'Ruby Slippers'

Digitalis ‘Ruby Slippers’

Ricinus are in! One in the kadai on the roof terrace, surrounded by Canna Durban and blood grasses, one in prairie border and one in the front garden, amongst other architectural plants melianthus major (son of deceased), filipendula and contorted hazel. Very directional I must say!
Courgettes de Nice a Fruit Rond, courgette Soleil and Patti Pans Summer Mix have been planted on the allotment. I’ve taken no chances after last year’s initial fiasco of the disappearing crops (the dreaded mollusc again) so they each have a T&M tomato auto waterer collaring them as well as slug pellets, and I’ve kept back a couple of spare plants just in case.

Flaming Kadai & unnamed bidens

Flaming Kadai & unnamed bidens

Oh, and then there’s the small matter of our NGS Open Day on 12th June. Never mind the borders! All hands are on deck baking cakes, putting up signage, distributing leaflets and London Guides. Volunteers, raffle and children’s treasure hunt to be organised, plants for sale labelled and colour coded by price point. The living wall, nicknamed the dying wall due to an unfortunate misjudgement regarding the watering system, has to be replanted, so I’ll fill it with nasturtiums for a quick fix.  T & M nasturtium Phoenix seeds are popping up all over the roof terrace but no time to grow more from seed; it’ll have to be a case of Instant Gardening at this late stage.
Oh well back to the grindstone. How I love gardening!

May madness with Amanda Davies in the garden

Hello Gardeners!

Just like this time last year the season doesn’t know if it wants to be spring, autumn or winter. One minute it’s wet and windy, next it’s too hot to stand in the greenhouses for more than ten minutes. Unexpectedly the potatoes have shot up, and luckily I moved them outside before the really hot weather kicked in, however they have started to grow flowers so they will be ready sooner rather than later. It takes 12-16 weeks for Charlottes to be ready, and Dad used to say once they have flowered cut off the foliage and leave them for 7-10 days where they are. The trouble is once I know they are almost ready I just want to dive in.

 

Amanda's Potato 'Charlotte' & Tomato 'Magic Mountain'

Amanda’s Potato ‘Charlotte’ & Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’

The month started off with high winds and a telephone call from Rachel asking “Who’s your glazier?” My greenhouse was unscathed but she had lost a few panes. Come the Friday she said, “I found someone who does glass cheaper than yours.”

“Who?” I demanded.

It turned out that a long established garden nursery in Pembrokeshire were getting rid of 2 giant glasshouses as they are diversifying into a Glamping Eco Centre, and to raise extra funds they were selling the panes for £1 each. Rachel said ” I’m getting extra panes tomorrow, do you want some?” Of course I did. I bought £5 worth as I didn’t want to get too many hope this will last me a few years.

We have both been busy in the garden and greenhouses, I have pricked out my geraniums, hardened them off and planted them outside, along with the petunias, cosmos, Californian Poppy, sweetpeas, eating peas and a sunflower. Apart from 3 nicotianas the rest have also been put into their final growing positions. Meanwhile Mark has been mowing, edging, weeding, digging and fixing.

Trial fuchsia & bidens with Petunia 'Night Sky'

Trial fuchsia & bidens with Petunia ‘Night Sky’

I, like a lot of people this year seem to be struggling with seed germination. My methods usually work, but out of 20 sunflowers, only 1 has grown. There is no sign of my malvins, dahlias, Bells of Ireland, strawflowers, asters, snapdragons, cucumbers, squashes, verbena or pumpkins. I don’t know if it’s because I bought poor compost or the unpredictable weather. I usually stick to a certain brand of compost from my local Garden Centre, but they had a 3 for 2 offer on 70ltr bags of a different one. When I was sieving it, I was disappointed by how many pebbles, bits of glass and bits of wood were in it. It doesn’t hold the water and bakes hard in the sun. The other 2 bags I have mixed into the big greenhouse borders as there was no way I as using it for seed again.

As the little greenhouse is now empty Mark decided to take everything out at the weekend and give it a good clean, it was surprising how much muck was on the inside windows.

Whilst waiting for the seeds in pots to germinate, I feel a bit annoyed and let down that I didn’t buy extra pot plants, so I would have something to write about, but then something brilliant happened. Thompson & Morgan asked me to trial some plants for them. They sent me, and bloggers Caroline and Geoff, and others to trial an as-yet-unnamed set of trailing fuchsias, bidens and antirrhinums. So we planted up some hanging baskets with them and let them establish before placing them all outside. The bidens were planted with a single Petunia ‘Night Sky’ as I wanted to fill the hanging basket. The bidens are white with a yellow middle – almost daisy looking – but not all are white, some are white and mauve with a yellow middle. The scent is outstanding, on a warm day we can stand six feet away from the basket and their fragrance drifts on the air. As the baskets are attached to a boundary wall that backs on to a back lane, I don’t think it’s going to be too long before someone passes the garden and asks what is that beautiful smell.

Californian Poppy 'Cherry Swirl' & Dahlia 'Bonita'

Californian Poppy ‘Cherry Swirl’ & Dahlia ‘Bonita’

The trial fuchsias are attractive to slugs so we have had to keep using pellets in the hanging pots to keep the critters away. Although this year we seem to have more snails than slugs which is better as I can just remove these by hand, taking them into the closed down school field where they can live in peace. The plants themselves are putting on a lot of growth, but no signs of any buds yet.

The antirrhinums are also planted with a petunia, these are growing fast and appear to be starting to bud, I can’t wait to see what they look like. All of the trial flowers were repotted into their baskets/pots on the 26/04/16, using a compost that was tested with our meter to be PH7, they were watered, given a slow release feed and slug pelleted.

Typically when the greenhouse is misbehaving my nieces call and say, “Auntie Amanda, Daddy’s building our greenhouse, have you got any tomatoes we can have please…..oh and some aubergines, and peppers and basil and chives, and peas. Oh and Daddy says do you think Uncle Mark can help make the greenhouse?” Luckily I have lots of aubergines and tomatoes. I have basil and peppers, but I am now in the process of growing several different types of herbs which include basil, oregano, Lemon Balm, corriander, parsley, chives, dill and mint. Then my mum comes over for her tomatoes, aubergines, nicotianas and cosmos and geraniums, followed by my Auntie Mary who then needs aubergines as well. She asks what variety the tomatoes are (Magic Mountain) and takes one of them as well. Not that I mind, I had a packet of seeds that said, average 10 seeds, there were 14 of them, and they all grew, so I have been looking for homes for them. I have also given tomato plants to my next door neighbour and a friend at work. I can’t wait for the feedback from them as to the taste, size of fruit and quantity.

Cucumber 'Curino' & Squash 'Patty Pan'

Cucumber ‘Curino’ & Squash ‘Patty Pan’

I love sharing plants, after all what’s better than teaching a younger generation where food comes from, or having a jar of homemade tomato chutney for Christmas. As I wrote in one of my earliest blogs, a generous gardener is never poor.

In the small greenhouse border the Aloes have put on a lot of growth as has the money tree. However the Peace Orchid hated it, and had to be moved back into a pot of its own, so I put a spiky cactus in there instead.

In the large greenhouse, Mark has been busy building a cane support for the tomatoes, luckily it didn’t involve a trip to A&E like last years build. I have decided to use the left border for them instead of the right border this year to see if it makes any difference to the way they grow. I want to find out if they will get more light, as although the sun shines on the greenhouse all day and last year the vines created too much shadow for the plants on the left side. Hopefully this year the aubergines, peppers and chillies which will go on the right hand side will have more early morning light.

We have already put the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines into their final growing spots. Unfortunately, the hot chillies are still tiny, no more than 2 leaves each. They are on the hanging shelves and I don’t know if I should move them into the cooler smaller greenhouse or be a bit more patient. Also on the hanging shelves are seeds still waiting to germinate and a fabulous Banksia Hookerina that is growing steadily. I keep inspecting it every day and wish I had thought to do a time lapse photo record of it.

I am waiting the arrival of some plug plants that include a cucamelon and extra chillies. The back border in the greenhouse only has some Basil ‘Lemonade’ and rueben in it to go with the toms. Rachel is threatening to share some yellow tomato plants too, but the variety she grows are delicious so I am sure I can squeeze them in.

I must remember to buy some sticky yellow traps, although I was surprised at how much they cost. I don’t really like using these though as they also end up catching the beneficial bees and butterflies. I think I might research companion planting instead where the scent of a flower or herb attracts the pest to it instead of the crop, good ones to try are marigolds, basils and borage.

I am hoping June will see more progress on the germination of the seeds, if not I am going to stop the seed sowing until it’s time to plant winter veg towards the end of August. June and July will be busy months with nipping out side shoots, pest control, watering and weeding.

On a personal level I have a number of hospital appointments coming up, a Cardiology one this week and a balance test due to my ears being damaged by the Labrynthitis virus, which I still appear to be fighting even though it’s been over 12 months. I need to have an MRI scan on my head because of the balance issues and again I will be distracting myself by thinking of all the jobs I need to do in the greenhouse to get me through the tests. I am so glad the RHS Chelsea show are doing a huge amount to promote the health and wellbeing of gardening, because not only does it offer great exercise, encourage you to eat healthily, and get fresh air but being at one with nature is nourishing and healing to the soul.

Until next month,

Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda.

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.

Tomato ‘Sungold’ goes way beyond expectations

Thompson & Morgan customer Mrs Raisborough moved to her new home in Hook Hampshire twenty years ago, which had a third of an acre garden with nothing more than meadow grass and a few fruit trees. While new to the area and in need of garden plants, she befriended a neighbour who was also a local garden centre owner. Sadly the garden centre was due to close due to her neighbour retiring, and as he closed his doors he gave Mrs Raisborough a gift of lots of plants and 40 packets of seeds, 20 of which were Thompson & Morgan’s Tomato ‘Sungold’ variety.

Tomato 'Sungold' 1996 packet & Tomato 'Sungold' 2016 packet

Tomato ‘Sungold’ 1996 packet & Tomato ‘Sungold’ 2016 packet

Every spring time since 1996 Mrs Raisborough has sown one packet of the Tomato ‘Sungold’ seeds, and every year those seeds have germinated to provide a full crop of delicious ‘Sungold’ tomatoes.  One year she decided to sow two packets as she thought the seeds viability must have gone by now. Low and behold the two packets germinated, as had all the others and the extra tomatoes were sold with all the proceeds given to charity.

Tomato 'Sungold'

Tomato ‘Sungold’

Mrs Raisborough said in her correspondence: “I have never been so well supported by a company such as yours for such a length of time for so little outlay.” And she goes on to say: “Tomatoes growing from seeds sown this year with a date on the package ‘Sow by August 1996’ – You couldn’t make it up!!” We have to agree with Mrs Raisborough, at Thompson & Morgan we knew our seeds were of a high quality but even we did not expect germination from twenty year old seeds.
The tomatoes have been enjoyed year after year by Mrs Raisborough’s family, friends and visitors to her garden for twenty years. Mrs Raisborough said: “Thank you for the reliability and surprise that your packets have given me over the last two decades.”

“Well done Thompson & Morgan and well done Tomato ‘Sungold’!”

Wendie Alexander
Having just finished my English Degree at university I am excited to continue working for Thompson & Morgan where I have worked for more than 3 years. I am a keen gardener who wants to learn lots more!

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