Your questions answered

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We get a lot of questions from you guys, and generally, if we can, we answer you directly, but we don’t always have time. So we thought we’d put a list together of questions we’d had in, some new, some from previous posts, some gardening related, some food-related and some just fun.

So let’s start with the gardening ones…

Top 5 gardening questions

What flowers do you recommend for a dull garden that doesn’t get a lot of direct sun?

Our garden is a mix of sunny spots, shady spots and some parts which never see direct sun. So we have a real mix of plants out there.

For the shadier parts of the garden, One of my favourites is hydrangea, which we grow in pots to keep them manageable in size and also as I am a control freak and in pots, I can control the soil (and hence the colour) of the flowers. For those who don’t realise, hydrangea are susceptible to the Ph level in the soil and the flowers can change colour from pink to blue in relation to the Ph.

For Kate, her favourite shade loving plant is the hellebore. Even better as they can flower in early December, giving you some winter colour in the garden too and even better they have a really long flowering season.

What was the best and worst piece of advice you were given as a new gardener?

The best piece of advice I was given as a new gardener was from our friend Luke, back when we just got the garden started. He told me that I wasn’t watering my plants nearly enough, I had to water maybe 3 times more than I thought I should. And he was right. I had been basically sprinkling things with the rose head on the hose, enough so the top layer of soil was wet, but not enough to properly soak the soil down to the plant roots. As soon as I started to follow his advice, I saw a huge difference in my garden.

We’re struggling to answer the bad advice, Kate has just pointed our that other than Luke, we haven’t actually been given any advice. We have kind of worked things out as we went. So maybe instead of bad advice, we were actually given, maybe we’ll just bust one of the myths we hear a lot… you can’t water your lawn during the day if it’s sunny as it will burn your lawn.

I’ve heard this a lot and it’s stuff and nonsense. It’s correct to say that it’s not the best time to water your lawn, but not because it will burn things, rather it’s simply because the water will evaporate much quicker and so your grass is less likely to benefit. The best time to water your lawn is actually early morning. This lets the water sit and properly get to the roots of the grass, but doesn’t let it sit so long that you are risking damage from damp. As if you have overwatered, it will evaporate when the sun comes up.

Ok for this next one, we are going to combine a few questions. Cause basically Kate has a strong opinion on this…

What has been your biggest learning curve as a gardener? & What has been the hardest thing to grow?

I wish I could properly describe to you, Kate’s reaction to this. It was probably the most animated I’ve seen her in a while.

From Kate:

THE LAWN!!!!!!! GRASS!!!!!!!! THE LAWN!!!!!!!! I thought grass just grew, it was easy. THAT’S A LIE! At this point, she makes the word lie sound like her last dying breathe after being stabbed in some very dramatic play.

So from Kate. My dad never seemed to have the same amount of trouble with the lawn as we do. He just cut it week and it was lovely. Eight years. Eight years and this is the first year we haven’t had loads of daisies. And the moss, we’ve only just about got on top of it now. I’m dreading the state it will be in by spring. How many more bald bits to regrow?

Ahem, so you get the impression. Kate would like you to know that the lawn has been the hardest plant to grow… grass. And I suppose in that same vein, the biggest learning curve.

We’ve written a whole series of posts covering our learning curve at tackling the lawn, so feel free to go back and get a much more in-depth view of our adventure, but suffice to say, a good lawn requires the following:

Regular watering, regular feeding, regular cutting and regular weed control. So regular is a big part of it, meaning, lots of work. Sorry, there’s no getting away from it.

What is your favourite thing to grow?

I’ve spent 20 minutes randomly going through things in my head and then changing my mind on this. It’s a bit of a difficult one to answer because I have different reasons for growing different plants. Just for pure joy, for me, it’s daffodils. Which is a bit crazy because when we first got the garden I said no to daffodils cause I hated them. I thought they were boring, cause let’s be honest, they are everywhere. The parks, bits of communal grassland etc are always covered in daffodils.

But I think the turning point for me came when I realised you get different types of daffodils, different sizes and colours. Then realising how early they bloom, meaning you get that blast of colour in very late winter / early spring making promises for what’s to come. That was the turning point. Once I planted them for the first time, the next massive boost was realising how much they spread, without any help from me. We went from a wee bunch at the end of the bed at the fence, to the whole bed has been taken over. I love it.

What is your favourite gardening tool and why?

For me, it’s my Hori Hori knife. A great big, super sharp…. well trowel I suppose is the best description. It looks a bit like a commando knife, with a serrated edge and a straight edge, but also there is a slight curve or trowel shape to it, making it great for digging, weeding, cutting up root balls, sawing tough roots or branches etc. I use it all the time.

Kate’s would like to make it very clear that her favourite gardening tool is her “burny fire”. Yep, that’s what she calls it. She has one of those gas weed burners and she loves it. To be fair, it has made life so much easier. She used to have real problems with her hands, and weeding for hours making small movements with her fingers would cause her a lot of pain. And as you’ve seen, we have a lot of places to weed. She got the gas weed burner just to test it, not expecting much. However, turns out to have been life-changing. She really loves it.

Can I grow any flowers in the winter in the UK?

Yup, there are loads. We grow a lot of viola/pansies, primula and of course cyclamen. All of which are pretty hardy, winter wise, and will flower and give you some colour in the garden. We also love our schimmia. It’s an evergreen bush, so give you colour all through winter, but also gorgeous flowers in spring and deep red berries in autumn. Win-win.

But don’t just think about flowers in winter, think about foliage and branches too. A nice evergreen shrub with variegated leaves can be gorgeous. Or what about dogwood with its amazing red branches in winter?

With all the knowledge you have gained, what would you do differently?

Oh, this is actually a difficult one. We’ve been changing our gardening habits over the years as we learn things, so I’m not sure I can pinpoint one thing now. Possible I would like to go back to the two very excited, young, women who moved in and tell them to slow down. Take a moment to get to know the garden before jumping off.

Maybe if I’d done that the garden may be a slightly different shape. At the moment, the shed is in the sunniest spot in the whole garden. It gets the sun from morning until evening. Whereas the greenhouse only gets sun from lunchtime onwards because it’s up against a high fence on the east side of the garden. If we’ve taken some time, we might have moved the shed and put the greenhouse in its spot. By the time we realised, it would have been so much work to switch things around that we just didn’t bother.

Top 5 food and cooking questions

What was the first meal you cooked for each other?

Oh come on guys, you expect us to remember that??? Actually yeah we do, lol.

I cooked a steak dinner for Kate, with all the trimmings including a flambéd peppercorn sauce. I was so nervous, I suspect I may have overcooked the steak but she’s never let on if I did. And then I did her some homemade apple crumble and custard for dessert.

Kate impressed me with her pinwheel chicken, which is a chicken roulade stuffed with sundried tomato, shallots and mushrooms, with a lemon sauce. It was delish!!

If you guys could only eat one type of cuisine for the rest of your lives what would it be?

This is an easy one for us both, Italian. We both love Italian. You may have noticed. It also gives you a huge amount of variety, so I don’t think you’d ever get bored.

Sorry guys, probably not the most exciting answer.

What is your favourite meal?

Kate is refusing to limit this to one meal. So she has listed her favourite dishes including, pasta, steak, beef wellington, but would like to say that it depends on the situation, in summer she likes a nice salad sometimes. She got quite harassed at the thought of only being able to have one favourite.

I feel a bit over simple now, to be quite honest, my favourite is a good pizza. I love pizza, but it has to be decent though, not a dodgy takeaway thing with cardboard where the base should be. I love a really nice sourdough base, with tangy tomato sauce and lumps of mozzarella. I’m desperate to take Kate to Julianna’s in Brooklyn.

What is your favourite/best buy gadget for the house or your garden?

Ha ha ha this is easy. For me, I LOVE my KitchenAid mixer, which Kate bought me as a Valentine’s present. I’ve had lots of RSI problems with my wrists and elbows and kneading dough was getting quite difficult. Having a stand mixer has meant I can still make bread and pastry etc. Next up would be my pasta roller. Again, it just takes the strain out of things.

Kate surprised me with this one. Her favourite gadget is our hoover. I KNOW!!!! Seriously though, it is a good hoover, a nice cordless one that’s super powerful and deals with even Penny’s fluffy cat hair.

Are you savoury or sweet?

Ha ha ha, I am definitely savoury, not to say I don’t like a nice dessert, but if you give me the choice between a danish pastry and a sausage roll, I’m a sausage roll all the way.

Kate has changed over the years, she used to be 100% sweet, but she’s finding that her tastes are changing and she has a tendency to reach for the savoury these days.

The rest of the family

How many cats do you have and what are their names?

We have two cats, sisters called Penny and Parker. They are calicos, or tortoiseshell and white. A right pair of little characters.

Penny is mostly white, and the smaller of the two, she is also quite timid and doesn’t like strangers. She is a long-haired cat, which means she leaves balls of fluff behind her everywhere she sits down.

Parker is much bigger and much more boisterous. Although they are both calicos, Parker has much more tortoiseshell on her back and has the coolest markings on her face and ears. She has alternative black and ginger, from her ears, eye patch and chin strip, alternating each time.

Parker is also a passionate cheese lover. Penny, however, is not a fan. They do both sing for tuna though.

Do your cats always come into the greenhouse with you?

Now can you name which cat this is?

The cats very rarely come into the greenhouse when I’m there, unless it’s raining, in which case Parker cries to get in, for about 2 seconds and then wants out again, then in again, then out again…. They were both obsessed with the greenhouse when it was new. As cats are with all new things, but they prefer to adventure in there when I’m not around. I have to be honest, I prefer to keep them out of there though, as they both have a thing for chewing up plant leaves. Penny trashed my pepper plants this year.

How did you choose the names for your cats?

They are both named after TV characters, although not as people think.

Having cats called Penny and Parker, everyone thinks its a reference to Thunderbirds, but it actually isn’t. Parker is named after a character in a TV show called Leverage, she was a cat burglar, a master thief who was just a bit different and quirky and a favourite character of Kate’s.

Penny is named after Penny from the Big Bang Theory. If she had been a boy cat she would have been called Sheldon.

So there you have it, some daft facts about Eli and Kate, and of course Penny and Parker. We hope that was fun. If you have asked us a question and we haven’t managed to answer it yet, apologies. We will get to you, promise. Just hang in there with us.

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