Garden DIY – we put up a new fence

Ok we didn’t really put up a whole new fence, but we did kind of embellish what we had. For reasons we don’t know, one side of our garden had a low fence, whilst everywhere else in the neighbourhood has higher fences. Doesn’t seem like much of a big deal, right? Well to be honest it isn’t in the grand scheme of things, but we sometimes felt like having a lower fence meant we lost out on a bit of privacy for us and the neighbour next door. The issue though, we were very conscious that putting in a higher fence might mean losing some light into the garden. The sun rises from that very side of the garden. I think we solved that conundrum though, we put up a set of  lattice panels which give privacy as they break up the view but also let the light through.

Before
Before

After
After

Our original plan had been to paint the new panel in the same colour as the rest of the fence but we’ve decided we actually like the contrast so we are just going to paint the uprights/posts and leave the panels the lighter colour.




Reviews, thoughts, recommendations and the year so far

Eli going over and updating her garden logWe’re now entering August which for us is usually a time of abundance from the garden. Unfortunately this year things don’t seem to be following that timetable, although that’s not to be said that things have been a complete wash out.

At this time each year, I stop to review the year so far and to start planning for next year, what will we plant, what seeds do we need etc. It gives me a chance to really think about the garden as a whole from spring onwards and not just get stuck in whatever headspace I happen to be in at that time and it lets us compare the different seeds we’ve tried from one year to the next.

I keep notes in a gardening journal of every plant I grow, where I got the seeds, when I planted them, any issues and when they have fruited. This gives me a good record to use for the following year so I can see not only which veg has done well but also which particular seeds did best. For instance, courgettes. This year the courgettes haven’t been great. The plants have struggled and we’re seeing lots of dead, dried out leaves (possibly mildew) and the fruits are rotting on the plants before we get to harvest them (other than maybe 4 or 5).

Now you might think that means that courgettes don’t like the Musselburgh climate but looking back over the last two years, the courgettes have actually been our most productive plant. So what’s different this year? Well this year I put the plants out a little earlier than normal, although we didn’t have any frosts which could have caused problems, so it’s probably not that.

This years plants have come from different seeds. Last year and the previous year I grew our courgettes from a seed called All Green Bush, this year however I tried a different seed. This year I grew from Firenze F1. So what do we do? Next year I’ll try the All Green Bush seeds again and see how we get on.

balconi yellow tomato plantTomatoes are something I am always testing  and comparing too and this year I’ve found a winner that I’ll definitely be growing again.  Tomato Balconi Yellow, these are the perfect tomato plant for those of us who don’t have acres of space or even a greenhouse. It’s the tiniest little tomato plant I’ve ever grown, but you get a huge amount of lovely, tasty cherry tomatoes from it.

I’ll be growing these again next year and I’m going to try a red version as well. The size and yield of this plant means not only does it not take up a lot of space, but also it doesn’t need a lot for training and pruning. You could probably grow these on a sunny window ledge.

So what else has been a beaming success this year? The peas. We have had so many lovely, fresh peas this year that to be honest I kind of got sick of peas and started giving them away so we will definitely be growing peas again next year, but we may look at a new place to grow them as we found they took up quite a bit of space in the bed .

Now potatoes are another resounding success for this year, but unfortunately in my rush to try out different varieties means we now have far too many potatoes for us to use. I’ve tried leaving them in the soil but I’m going to have to give in and pull them all this weekend as it’s getting quite late, so if you want some potatoes,give us a shout.

Ok I’ll leave it there for our reviews and thoughts for this month but the next big excitement might be the dwarf green beans, we’re starting to see these appearing, so I promise an update about those as soon as is appropriate.

 




July already – quick get the potatoes pulled

IMAG2547This year seems to be whizzing by and to be honest, almost without me noticing.

I’m finding this year that the garden and its moods are not quite as obvious as it’s been in previous years possibly because of the very mild winter we had where next to nothing died off and flowers continued to flower right through. This meant we didn’t have the usual spring and instead have been hit with a summer where a lot of the flowers in the garden have already past and although everything is very green, there is not much in the way of colour about.

We’ve found also that this year has been a lot harder going for veggies too, with not nearly the success we’ve had in previous years. Our beetroots are no where need harvesting size yet, our carrots are all leaves and very little, well carrot! The tomatoes as well are green but nowhere near ripe yet. I suspect the lack of definitive winter, spring and summer has affected things. We’ve had a lot of warmth, not as much sunshine as previous years and more rain than previous years.Could this be it?

Our usual champion of the garden – courgettes – have just been rotting on the plants as babies and we haven’t managed yet to eat any.

However it’s not all doom and gloom. This year’s trophy for fabulousness goes to the peas. We have had so many peas that the plants are now almost past and starting to die of, and I never thought I’d say it, but I’m kinda getting sick of peas from the pod. I know that is a sacrilegious thing for a gardener to say but I’ve been eating them in huge handfuls daily (along with help from colleagues at work).

The strawberries too have been incredibly tasty although we found a very amusing trait which may be of interest to those of you thinking about giving strawberries a try next year. DON’T plant them in the bed you used for garlic the previous year. Garlicky strawberries are a bit weird and trust me, a couple of our plants REALLY picked up on the garlic.

Dad helping with the tatties july 19th 2014Potatoes have also been a success, my dad helped me pull a couple of batches yesterday which have really enjoyed all the rain, our salad potatoes ARE HUGE. Like baked potato size. Next weeks potato salad is going to be a stonker (next week is my annual birthday bbq).

So how do things stand, well check back in a few weeks, the weather is meant to be sunny for a bit, so hoping the tomatoes will ripen and the carrots and beetroot will catch up. I promise to keep you posted.




Keeping Mr Mo with us

In December we lost our little old man, Elmo (or Mr Mo). He had put in a good innings and was a good age when he finally died after battling kidney failure.  It was a very difficult time for both of us, losing a part of the family but our memories and stories of his exploits were a comfort and one in particular which also gave us a way to have a little reminder of him.

Elmo had some quirky wee habits that both made us laugh and at times made us wonder what on earth was going through his head. One of these was his obsession for a particular pillow on the couch which he insisted on lying on. It didn’t matter if you were using the pillow, he would just meow at you until you gave in and then he would sprawl on it (Parker developed this same habit, often sharing the pillow with Elmo and this has now become her thing, she comes up onto the couch and stretches out on the same pillow).

elmo sprawled

Kate on plenty of occasions told him he was being a princess, but he didn’t seem to care as long as he got his pillow.

One of his other little quirks which drove Kate insane was his was obsession with eating grass. I say eating grass, he didn’t actually have any teeth left so it was more that he “gummed” the grass but everytime Kate trimmed the lawn taking great care to make sure it was all neat, Elmo would find the one bit she had missed and sit there gumming at it as a huge na na na na that she’d missed a bit. He always found it, no matter if it was behind a plant pot or next to a clothes pole. He’d find it.

It was this habit of his for chewing at the grass that gave us the idea of putting a little area of the garden aside as Elmo’s and as a place for us to have a little memory station so we decided we’d have some ornamental grass to mark the place where we scattered his ashes. The grass we chose is commonly called “Bunnies Tails” as it produces lovely, fuzzy, soft plumes from where the seeds will disperse and to all the world they do feel like soft fur. To us, they very much feel like Elmo’s soft fur.

So back in February we planted up a nice big pot of seeds and put the pot over in the corner of the garden (one of the many that Elmo would “patrol”) and waited. Yesterday we saw the first of the bunnies tails come through giving us both a huge warm glow as Elmo’s grass begins to take shape.

grass

bunny tail

 

 

So now we have a little piece of Elmo with us in the garden where we can remember all the fun things he did as well as all those mornings he woke us up too early or got between us and the TV screen.

 

Elmo as a kitten
Elmo as a kitten

 

Mr Mo
My handsome brute of a boy

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Elmo in his favourite place – a newly made bed.

 

We have also brewed a beer in his honour, a milk stout, which we thought being black and sweet was very appropriate. This beer will be one of our seasonal beers for Christmas time each year to remember him.

Mr Mo's milk stout




Our first harvest is getting closer

peasThings are getting quite exciting in the garden at the minute with the various veg beds and pots starting to show signs of what’s to come in the first harvest.

The biggest excitement just now is our peas – another newbie for us – having never grown peas before, I’m quite pleased at how easy they have been to grow and how happy they seem in the veg beds. We’re now starting to see the first pods and it’s a daily thing now to check and see if there are any which are edible yet. I can’t wait to try my first peas straight from the pod. Although Kate has said that I’ll be lucky to get any if she spots them first.
courgettes

But it’s not just the peas which are springing to life, we’ve got a couple of courgettes starting to plump up too, both green and yellow although as usual the yellow ones are a good bit behind the green, they really are not so happy in the Scottish environment.

We usually get a glut of courgettes from two plants but I think I may have put them outside just a little bit too early this year as they do seem like the plants are smaller than usual and things are just a bit delayed. Lesson learned, don’t kick the courgettes out of the green house in March to make way for more tomatoes. Bad Eli.

Speaking of tomatoes, we have a greenhouse full of flowering tomato plants at the minute so it’s a guessing game as to how long it will be before we see our first little tomato forming.  it will be interesting to watch sizes and times for ripening as we have a couple of heritage plants going that produce large fruit so we will be able to watch these and compare them to the cherry tomatoes we always grow and see what happens.tomatoes

There is another piece of excitement at yet another first for us, we have some strawberries on the plants 😀  I am really excited about this and can’t wait for them to ripen. I have visions of eaten homegrown strawberries and drinking homemade champagne for the Wimbledon final.  Fingers crossed that the next two weeks are super sunny!

strawberries

 

Last update for you… CUCAMELONS!!!

Yep these little blighters love the greenhouse and are growing at an alarming rate. It feels a bit like the other year when we grow pumpkins and they took over the greenhouse, only these little fellows are smaller but much quicker at putting out tendrils. I had to build them a wee climbing frame as they were wrapped around all my staging shelves, the brush, the lemon tree and a bottle of tomato feed. It’s like day of the triffods in there.

 

cucamelons

 




It’s time for an update

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A few weeks back I introduced you to a garden newcomer called cucamelons. At that point they were just little seedlings and you couldn’t really tell much about their “character”. I’m glad to say that they have come on in leaps and bounds since then.

They should keep going in this long and spindley fashion and be putting out little runner shoots before eventually producing tiny little water melon looking fruits. I’m hoping they will be a good little greenhouse treat to stop me munching on the tomatoes. Its not good that more often than not, the tomatoes don’t get as far as the kitchen.

And here’s a full frontal.

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So how is the rest of the garden doing?

Well it’s a bit early in the year for anything much to be edible other than salad and radishes but we are on the way.

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The tatties are doing well too, the flowers have already formed and look like opening their buds any day now.

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We’ve also got our first teeny tiny courgettes, green and yellow. I’m just hoping that this time we wont suffer from rot like last year.
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So all in all quite happy about the garden so far. Everything is beginning to to do its stuff and hopefully we’ll start getting some good weather soon to help it along.

The tomatoes are flowering too, although I’ve been a bit worried that the plants aren’t as tall or bushy as other years, I guess we’ll just have to see how they do.

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So there you are. A quick update of the garden at the end of May.




Our 100th blog post – keeping the sparrows away from our veggies

Yippee!!! This is our 100th blog post so join us in raising a wee glass and celebrating.

So apart from stressing over what to write about for this “special” blog post, what have we been doing? Well this weekend we’ve finally completed a job that’s been on our list for a little while. We’ve netted over the beds to protect them from birds.

Here at Ar Bruidair, we are lucky enough to have lots of local wildlife that visits us and makes our garden interesting. The most common being the sparrows and starlings. We have a huge amount of sparrows nesting in the trees around our house and even in the eves of the house and they are noisy little things I have to say.

This is lovely and we both enjoy watching them going about their daily routines, however one part of their routine is a bit on the annoying side. They nick stuff. It’s that time of year when the little birds are being born so for the last few weeks the local bird life have been stealing pieces of our reed fencing, coconut matting from our hanging baskets and various other bits and pieces to line their nests, meaning we’ve had soil and plants fall out of the hanging baskets and holes in our privacy fencing.

Recently though, they’ve added a new little habit to their routines, the now eat my salad and dig in my beds.

Now ok, I fully accept that we grow plenty enough salad for us and the sparrows, but it’s more the digging in the beds which is frustrating me as they are killing off the seedlings as they start to come up and my beetroot crop has been halved (they seem to have gone for all the same type of beetroot too).

So I figured that given that we are about to have strawberry plants setting fruit, it was time to stop putting things off and actually get around to netting things. You’d think after last years war with the cabbage moths we’d have done this already, but I confess, sometimes we get lazy.

So how have we done it?

For this I have to say a big thanks to Cecelia at work. She told me of a great solution she had used in her garden and it works great, is easy to set up and costs way less than buying the proper netting cages at the garden store. Get us sticking to our thrifty promise.

So you’ll need to pop to your DIY store, we went to B and Q and got everything we needed for less than £30.

things you need to make bird net cages

Ok you’ll need.

  • 1/2 inch pvc water pipe (B and Q do this for £20 for 15 meters)
  • Bird netting
  • Some string

We found that our secateurs cut the piping really easily, you could use a knife or something similar.

 

 

It’s up to you how tall you want the net cage to be, as we were only covering things like salad and carrots, we didn’t need it overly tall so we cut the piping lengths which were twice the width of our beds. For our beds, 3 per bed seems to be enough, but obviously if your beds are bigger you may need more. Then it’s as simple as pushing each end down into the soil as far as you can to form a hoop over the bed.

IMAG2321You can see it take shape as soon as you start to push the piping into the beds.

Once you have as many as you need, it’s time to add the netting. It’s easier to have two of you doing this as stretching the netting out over the frame is quite frustrating if you are on your own. Simple stretch it out and cut it to the size you need then either peg it down into the soil or attach it to the side of the beds if like me you have raised beds.

We used small nails along the beds which the net fits over and is held in place.

Remember, you will need to be able to get at the veggies to do all the chores like weeding, watering etc so don’t fix it down permanently on all sides. We’ve fixed it to the centre support using garden wire but kept the two ends fixed temporarily using the nails so that we can get into the beds when we need to.

Kate attaching the support piece

One other thing you can do, if you are worried that the structure may not hold up against your particularly strong birds of winds, you can fix a cross brace to help strengthen it. For this we just used another length of pipe and cross tied it to each support.

 

 

 

There you go, our finished bird proof beds.

 

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How are the tomatoes growing. A greenhouse update.

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The sun has been shining all week and as usual we’ve been in the garden enjoying the sunbeams.

Although it’s not just us loving the sunshine, the vegetables and tomatoes are bursting to life this week. Hence why I thought I’d give you a very quick update on the greenhouse.

I have a couple of things to show you which I had held off on until I knew they’d “take”.

Cucamelons
I can hear you now, “what on earth are cucamelons?”. And I don’t blame you. It’s a bit of an unusual one.

We found out about them from another gardener’s video blogs and it looked like fun. I’ll post a link at the bottom to her video post about them, but she’s done lots of other interesting gardening videos so I’d recommend heading over to her youtube channel for some viewing. She even did one very amusing video for world naked gardening day. I’m trying convince Kate to do one for this year, but I don’t think that that’ll be a battle I’ll win.

Cucamelons are tiny little fruits that apparently taste like melon, but they are really small. I thought they’d make perfect little lunch box treats.

I wasn’t sure how I’d get on as the seeds really didn’t seem to take, but this weeks sun has made all the difference and I have a batch of about 15 coming on.

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This is a new one on us too, so I promise to keep you up to date on how they get along.

Watering system
The other interesting addition to the greenhouse this year is a new watering system that I’m testing out.

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It’s a large bag which holds about a gallon of water and has a hose and dripper system. I’m hoping it might help prevent fluctuations in watering and so stop so many tomatoes from splitting on the vine. I have one on each side of the greenhouse for the tomatoes.

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It’s my first time trying something like this out so we’ll have to give it time and see how it goes.

There you go, a quick update from the green house.

Click to go visit Claire’s Allotment




Springfest – because it’s seasonal beer time again

pump labels springfest apaI can’t believe it’s that time of year already. It comes round so fast but here we are again preparing for Springfest at the weekend. Those of you who are regular readers to our blog will know that Springfest is our annual celebration of all things sunny and bright, the growth of new things in the garden and the general feeling of fabulousness that comes with the brighter weather. It’s a bit like Beltaine for us, Beltaine is the celtic festival of fire. It is the celebration of the winter darkness being defeated by the spring sun and the rebirth of the world around us. That’s kinda how we feel.

As is the tradition for Springfest, a beer is brewed for the event using citra hops. Last year Kate designed the beer, this year she has actually brewed the beer (you can read about her efforts and see the recipe for yourself here) , but more than that, so has Luke and Valerie. This year we are having a wee brewing competition where Kate, Luke and Valerie have all brewed up a wee something they are going to bring along and we’ll all taste them and pick a winner.

Kate has made a double IPA using citra hops, Valerie has made an elderflower cider and Luke has made a red ale and aged it with cherry wood. Things should be interesting.

As always when we have one of our seasonal parties there will be food to go with the beer and for the theme this year to mark the first Springfest Homebrewing competition, I’ve gone with a theme of “boozing tasties” or basically the food you eat when you’ve drunk a little too much. I know you guys like to get your hands on some of the recipes for our “doos” (scottish for party) so here you go.

So amongst other things we are going to be having;

wpid-curry

Indian curry

the recipe is in one of our early blog posts here.

 

 

 

Malaysian Curry

Malay Chicken

Ingredients for 2 people

  • Chicken breast x 2 cubed
  • Mushrooms about 7 or 8
  • Coconut milk
  • Malay Spices (I use Malay Masala) Obviously you can make your own spice blend but i love this one so have stuck with it.
  • Lemon grass
  • Coriander (cilantro for our US readers) – chopped roughly
  • Red pepper – thinly sliced
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Garlic
  • ground nut oil for frying

Method

  1. First thing to do hammer the lemon grass to bruise it.
  2. Then add it to a high sided pan with a little oil to fry and add the chicken breast. fry off until almost cooked through then add the garlic and mushrooms and let them cook off for a few minutes.
  3. Then add the red pepper slices (as these are thinly sliced they won’t take long to soften).
  4. You now have the basic ingredients in the pan, it’s time to stat adding layers of flavour. Add 1 table-spoon of your Malay spice mix and give everything a really good stir to get it all coated.Give it 2 or 3 minutes.
  5. Now add the can of coconut milk and again get everything combined by giving the pan a good stir.
  6. You now have a nice creamy curry and you can stop there if it’s to your tastes but I like to add a couple more things which just make it extra yummy. Mix in 2 table spoons of oyster sauce and a handful of chopped coriander leaves.

There you, really easy Malay curry.

I serve it with rice and some fresh coriander sprinkled over the top but it works just as well with noodles and Kate loves flat breads to soak all the sauce up.

 

 

 

 




Beetroot and carrot seedlings

It’s official, our very first outdoor seedlings are starting to sprout. The bed where I planted our carrots and beetroot is showing signs of life.

I apologise as the picture is not the most amazing but we thought it would be good to share the small signs of spring life we are starting to see.

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On a plus move though, it’s not just in that bed we are watching spring take hold. I can’t help but get a little excited by the lovely, fresh greens in the herb planter. There something about the spring colours.

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That’s this years parsley which is looking amazing and bright. We’ve also got our first decent growth of chives since we started the garden. I just couldn’t get them to take the last two years but apparently giving up and ignoring them was the secret as they are coming on a treat.

As always the courgettes are the biggest plants going. Again this year we’ve tried the yellow ones as well as green but again I’m not certain. The yellow courgette plants don’t seem as strong, they seen to struggle a bit and are smaller.  Last year we also noticed that the yellow courgettes really struggled with rot. This year… We will see.

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