The state of play

This is more for me than for you, but I thought I’d bring you along for the ride.  After a spring with only a handful of dry days, it has been great to have a break for more than a few days in a row and the garden is drying out nicely and starting to look achievable.  Although the pressure is still on – this weekend is the last frost date and when most folk plant their gardens.  I need to exercise patience.  Just because you can plant things out, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

work in progress

This shows the juxtaposition going on in my garden – the yams are in and ready to go – the Jerusalem artichokes are lost in the wilderness.

The greenhouse is full of seedlings and most have been moved on from the seed raising mix and are now flourishing in a potting mix and have great root structure.  I have noticed the seedlings are paler than normal and slightly smaller than I’d expect to see at this time of year.  I put this down to too many gloomy days in a row and not enough brilliant spring sunshine.

Greenhouse seedlings

The greenhouse is still full of little green babies still to small and tender to face the outside world.

I still have some flower seeds to resow, because they didn’t come up.  I probably should have done this weeks ago, but flowers, despite their cheerful disposition are pretty much second rate citizens in my garden.  I don’t mean to, but, well… you can’t eat them.

Hardening off

The hardening off bench is getting a little over crowded, but this weekend should free up a lot of space as I start to plant things out into the garden. So super excited.

There are many seedlings dwelling out of doors and well into the later stages of the hardening off process and are spending nights outdoors.  I’m wary of their condition out there as it has been a bit breezy so I don’t want them to dry out or blow over.   I’m glued to the boffins weather predictions and watching the temperatures closely.  I’m choosing to ignore the rain radar though as I really don’t like what it is proclaiming from its brightly coloured imagery.

I need to take a moment and get out my plan – the one I actually took the time to draw up, with plant spacing and which plant will go where, and do a bit of a stock take to ensure I have everything I need.  I do know I have more Bell Peppers than I need as the first lot was a bit slow to come up.  My only excuse is they are a bit fickle and nothing at all to do with my impatience.  So I sowed another lot and then there was ‘The Big Fry Up’ that we aren’t supposed to talk about anymore.  I thought the pepper seeds would be toast, so I sowed another batch.  And then of course – they all came up.  I have over 40 and only wanted 8!

Out in the garden some beds are already in action.  I’m enjoying regular salads from the salad bed with some in various stages of maturity and another lot in the greenhouse for when the first lot are past their best.  So far so good – the succession planting is going well.   The asparagus is a bit slow – I’m hoping they haven’t drowned in all the wet weather.  I did sow seeds from the plants during the winter so if I need to start again – I’m already ahead.  But I really hope I don’t have too.

The artichokes and rhubarb haven’t coped too well in the wet either and are decidedly droopy.  I am hoping they will bounce back once the weather improves and the soil dries out.  The broad beans are at the edible stage, but I’m still hesitant.  Maybe I need to re-watch my old You Tube video showing how surprised I was to find they weren’t that bad.   And the last of the ‘in action’ beds are the strawberries who are just getting started and I can’t wait to have so many I don’t know what to do with.


It may not look like it but the garlic is looking much better since I gave it a hair cut. Now that the weather is supposed to improve I hope they can push past the rust.

The garlic has suffered again with rust, but with all the rain it seemed inevitable and beyond my control so I pretty much left it to its own devices.  However, as I cast my eye over the bed the other day it looked like it was pushing through and growing past it.  The new leaves were green, strong and healthy looking.  So I removed all the leaves with the dreaded shade of orange and gave it a good feed to help it on its way.  I may get a garlic harvest after all.

The under-control beds are the onions and the onion overflow bed.  They are doing really well and beginning to fatten up.  Through everything since mid-winter I like to pride myself on keeping these beds weed free as onions really hate competition.   The spuds are up and looking lush. I trained my boysenberries – or more accurately whipped them into shape as I tied it into an elaborate frame that should manage the unruly growth habit.  The currants and blueberries have been weeded, enriched and doing well.  Although I was up bright and early in my PJs today dragging a reluctant goat away from the red currants.  Not much damage was done, fortunately.  Especially as Hubby the Un-Gardener was the one to tie the knot that secured Sweetie the Goat.  It could have been labelled “The Great Goat Incident” but disaster was averted.

The tomato, cucumber and brassica beds have been enriched but need turning over. Not too much effort for Hubby the Un-Gardener… to make up for the goat incident.  The cape gooseberry bed – yes they have their own space, because they are notorious for reappearing season after season.  So instead of it becoming a weed – it just self-perpetuates, which suits me fine as these are supposed to be super foods.  Not bad considering they are also considered a bit of a weed in some circles.  Well their bed has been weeded but not enriched as it is in the ‘damper end’ of the garden.  It also has a guava in there that really needs a home of it’s own as it got engulfed last year.  If you do notice a new bed, please don’t say anything.  I told Hubby the Un-Gardener I wasn’t going to expand any more.  I may need to build it while he’s out.

The rest of the bean bed needs to have the remains of the last overflow onions removed – it is mostly leeks that are going to seed and some self-seeded elephant garlic I’m thinking of repotting into containers big enough to grow them on to full maturity.  I have nothing to lose.  The other half of the carrot bed needs to be enriched as while carrots don’t like it too rich, the other occupants intended to move in here do like to have a bit to snack while growing.   The leafy green bed has left over strawberries that I heeled in temporarily.  I need to whip them out and pop them over to a friend’s house who was looking for strawberries for her garden.  The old leafy green bed still has my rainbow beets (chard) in it and the chickens and I are eating it as fast as we can.  Because I need to get my corn in at some stage from this weekend on…

The pumpkin bed needs a bit of a tickle – it is mostly weed free but could do with some compost and blood and bone, but it is still too damp to dig.  I have some mountain corn that I want to grow among the pumpkins that is desperate to go in due to a miscalculation during a moment of enthusiasm.   The odd and sods bed for all the fun stuff still has a cabbage that needs eating and the flower sprouts are actually in flower and I can’t bring myself to remove them as the bees are loving it too much.  The flower bed has been weeded but needs enriching, but it isn’t as simple as digging it over as there are perennials that just languish there over the winter.  I’ll have to proceed with caution.

The only really weedy beds that I feel shame about are my raspberries, my teaching garden, the Jerusalem artichokes and my herb garden, but all going well I’ll have them whipped into shape by this time tomorrow and we can forget this paragraph completely.


I love the wheat – I love the lush green growth that fills the garden over the winter. But now is time for it to come out and make room for my zucchini and squash.

The last bit that needs sorting out is the wheat.  It is ready to be harvested and dried and used as a mulch, but it is quite laborious as I like to keep it in neat bundles so it dries evenly and makes it easier to apply as a mulch.

The garden

All in all I think we are on track to a fabulous summer!

So not much to do really.  It is just as well my garden is my passion and every moment toiling in the mud is a moment well spent.

Come again soon – this summer is going to be fabulous.  I can feel it in my bones!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Ten Photo Tuesday

I’m knacked.  The rain has stopped – for now and the ground, while still a tad squishy underfoot in some places is for the most part dry.  So I’ve been out there making the most of it all .  I’ve been mowing grass that was probably a tad too long for the mower, but we pushed through – me and my trusty little mower.  I’ve weeded and enriched soils.  I’ve transplanted all the seedlings that needed to move into bigger pots.  I’ve begun hardening off the bigger seedlings.  I’ve helped The Joeyosaurus with his ‘pet garden.’  It was so pleasing to see he remembered what to do and had such a gentle hand with his seedlings.

I feel like I’ve done all of this against the clock – firstly, trying to get as much done as I can in case it rains again.  Secondly, this weekend it the weekend of the last frost date and so I need to get every thing ready in time.  It is madness to rush, as while it is the first day that is deemed safe to plant out my plants – it isn’t the only one, but there is a sense of tradition about it, so at the very least I’d like to get my tomatoes in.

I’ve done so much I’m quite tired so I’m off to soak my weary bones.  So sit back and enjoy my wee slideshow of the nicer parts of my day.

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I don’t know if you noticed but there were actually 11 photos because I couldn’t choose which to leave out.

Come again soon – spring is now over half way through, and summer is around the corner.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)






Mowing the Mud

We had a lovely break in the weather yesterday, and I woke up to a blue sky day.  Anything else on the to do list got cast aside and I headed out into the garden for a day of indulging my pleasure.  It was such a wonderful day and what spring should actually feel like.

The first task was not really ideal – but I wanted to do it, even though I knew I shouldn’t.  I set the mower on it’s highest setting and charged around the garden to restore some kind of order.  It isn’t ideal to mow when the grass is still very sodden, but looking out over a garden that seems overgrown because of the grass is not good for the self esteem for the gardener – especially with the last frost date less than two weeks away.  So I mowed. You can watch this foolishness here:


Today is a different day.  We’ve woken up to …  you’ve guessed it…  rain.  sigh.

Come again soon – I think I may need a good raincoat and do some gardening in the rain.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


To heck with the flooding – the sun is shining

There are rumours floating about that this rainy spring weather will continue well into November and possibly beyond and then we are supposed to dive head first into drought inducing conditions.  This is not the perfect season I was hoping for, and was well and truly owed!  So when you wake up to an empty house, as Hubby the Un-Gardener has gone out for the day with the kids AND the sun is shining – that can only mean one thing:  It’s a garden day – whatever the conditions!

Muddy path

There may have been a bit of a price paid for a day in the garden…. oh my poor grass.

I have been so good for weeks waiting patiently for it to stop raining and for the flooding to drain away.  But I’ve lost all hope that it will ever drain away and my grass is knee high and soil in the raised beds is warming nicely and the weeds are settling in and making themselves at home.

lettuce seedlings

The seedlings in the greenhouse are basking in the full strength of the sun as opposed to the weak half light of the gloomy rainy days

Meanwhile my seedlings in the greenhouse are being transplanted into ever increasing sized pots so they don’t become root bound and stunt themselves in the waiting.  It’s getting pretty crowded in there.  But to plant them out won’t do as I haven’t finished enriching the beds yet as they are still quite sodden below the surface and I’d hate to drown the poor wee things.


The spuds are up and looking good

I had plans to set the mower to as high as it can go and sweep through the puddles taking the tops of the grass to create an air of respectability.   You shouldn’t really mow wet ground, it’s not good for the soil structure and it isn’t all that great for the mower.  But I just want to make it all look nice again, instead of a weedy, out of control mess.   However, there was no petrol in the mower and none in the can either.   Probably just as well.


The artichokes are beginning to show themselves. I can hardly wait – steamed and dripping with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon juice – oh so very good

The sun was shining – I needed to do some proper gardening.  There was nothing left to do in the greenhouse – I’d done it all on the rainy days, just to itch that green thumb.  It just had to be done, so in the end I thought, so long as I don’t walk on the actual beds then it should be alright…  The grassy bit is just the bit that gets worn out in the height of summer anyway as I wander between the beds weeding, watering and harvesting with dramatic frequency.  It’s more of a side show, with the main event being the beds themselves.  That is where all the action happens.  So I popped on my gumboots and sloshed over to the first bed, carefully sat on the edge and began to pull weeds.  It was so satisfying and rewarding, I managed to work my way across 12 and a half beds before deciding it was enough for the day.  But there is still another 20 or so to go.   I hope tomorrow is nice again, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Broad beans

Broad beans are coming along nicely – I guess I’ll have to eat them soon….

Over the course of the day I did notice the puddles reduce in size, and I tried to vary the paths I took so I didn’t churn up the mud too much, although some churning was inevitable.  It has been so hard to sit back and do nothing, and now it feels good to have been able to do something, knowing that when the rain does stop for good I am well on the way to having my beds ready for my eager little seedlings.

My new book

My new book – I am so super excited.

On a way more exciting news front, I now have in my grubby old gardener hands, my latest book: Growing Vegetables – An easy guide for all seasons.  I am so pleased with how it turned out and is a week by week, season by season guide to doing all the things you need to get a great harvest, with loads of great tips along the way.  I can’t wait to see it in stores real soon.

Come again soon – maybe the rain has stopped for good.  I’m too afraid to check the forecast in case it’s not good news.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

“Hobbits really are amazing creatures”

 “You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.” Gandalf – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring



I only had two hours in the Shire of Hobbiton and I was surprised to learn Hobbits are amazing gardeners.  At the crossroads of Tuck Borough and East and West Farthing is a wonderful garden growing all manner of vegetables to feed the hobbits and allow for great feasts beneath the Party Tree in the Party Field.    It was just early spring, but there were leeks, cabbages, potatoes and fennel bursting into life.  And the first strawberries of the season that would no doubt be eaten with cream, were fattening up.

It was such a delightful place to visit and it appeared as it did in the movies, as though the hobbit residents had all just departed for a day trip into our world, leaving their tools where they lay, mid task, games unplayed and drinks undrunk.

Each little hobbit hole has its own feel and character that imparted the personality of the inhabitant.  There were bakers, cheesemakers, beekeepers, woodsmen, and fishermen, all identified by the tools of their trade and the produce they create.  But what drew my eye above the brightly coloured small round doors and quaint round windows were the gardens.  Each hobbit hole was embellished with flowers and vegetables alike and even this early in the season, there was colour and life, the fragrance of jasmine filled the air and beneath the trees with their burgeoning blossoms, bluebells danced in the breeze.

Hobbiton is a gardener’s delight, with botanical wonders at every turn.  Although all is not as it seems.  The old oak tree above the Baggins residence of Bag End is not actually real.  For The Lord of the Rings an old tree was cut down and brought to the set.  Artificial leaves were imported from Taiwan and individually wired to the tree.  However, for the Hobbit movie they replaced the old tree with a more permanent structure of steel and silicon and fake leaves.   The plum trees the young hobbits climb are actually apple trees, where the fruit and leaves were stripped and replaced with more plum-esk features.   All of this attention to detail for a village that features in two epic trilogies for less than 15 minutes across the 6 movies!

As we passed the working water wheel we were welcomed into the Green Dragon and invited to indulge in an ale, cider or ginger beer served in blue pottery mugs.  The feeling inside is familiar, like we’d visited somehow before and in the din and busyness with our fellow travellers, it was easy to imagine the place filled with joyous hobbits celebrating and revelling.

It was as if they knew I was coming.  The tour ended as it began – with the garden, and I was able linger for a few moments more among the vegetables growing there.  Soon my garden will flourish with the same vigour, once the rain stops.

If you ever happen to be down under, in Middle Earth, a trip to Hobbiton is well worth it.  The attention to every last detail will amaze you, as will the splendour of the gardens.

Come again soon – my garden is a modest wee thing by comparison.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Spring back in time

More rain

You can never be as over rain as I am. I just want it to stop.

With the weather being so horrible lately with more rain than we know what to do with, I decided to go back over my previous posts from the same time of year to see what, in an ideal season, I’d be doing right now.

Click into 2015:

Spring is in full swing

And it didn't disappoint - it was so windy it whipped about you like you were barely there at all

And it didn’t disappoint – it was so windy it whipped about you like you were barely there at all

In 2015 it was extraordinarily windy and I was cursing it and it’s gustiness.  Today I wouldn’t mind a bit of wind because it’ll dry things out a bit faster than by sunshine alone, when we see it.

Click into 2014:

Winter you have had your turn – go away

Soon it will be safe for this tomato to hit the ground running!

Soon it will be safe for this tomato to hit the ground running!

In 2014 I was moaning again.  Apparently it was still too cold to do much, and I wasn’t very happy about it.  I think I’d even take cold over rain right now because you can still dig cold soil.  However the boffins are suggesting this October will be the hottest ever.  Yay warm rain!

Click into 2013:

What better way to ring in the warmer weather than in style

The smoky onion aroma is quite intoxicating

The smoky onion aroma is quite intoxicating

In 2013 everything was hunky dory and it was shaping up to be a perfect season.  We even celebrated the arrival of spring with a festival ‘borrowed’ from the Spanish.  People still talk about that party – oh the fun we had.  We should do it again – when it stops raining.  Why can’t all springs be like the spring of 2013?

Click into 2012:

I hate my greenhouse

This is a disaster!

This is a disaster!

In 2012 I was hopping mad.  It didn’t even matter what the weather was like, although I get the feeling it was a windy spring.   I wouldn’t have wanted to be me – or near me for that matter that day 4 years ago!  It does show how far I’ve come and I need to count my blessings.  My seedlings are safe, warm and dry and when it does clear up outside and the water drains away from my soil, I will have perfectly healthy seedlings to slip in to the beds completely unaware there was ever a problem.

Click into 2011:

You gotta love living in the country

In 2011 it wasn’t even about the garden, but shows the passing of time.  The boys took part in Calf Club at school.  They do it every year and usually raise lambs from days old and are judged on how well they have been cared for and how well they know their names and can walk about on a lead. In 2011 we had our goats Sweetie and Snowy going through their paces with surprising results!

This year Sweetie and Snowy tower above the contenders – lambs Buster and Comet who are real characters.  Although I suspect as the Joeyosaurus pushed Sweetie around the course, poor Comet will suffer the same indignity.

But the passing of time is so much more evident than the date at the top of the page, looking at the tiny goats and the very small children makes me realize just how fast the years seem to slip away.  The goats are huge and so are the boys as they enter the preteen phase of life.   So rain, wind or cold every day is an opportunity to create some kind of memory, and if it is knee deep in mud so be it!

A full greenhouse and a muddy doorway

It becomes easy to overlook the mud leading up to the greenhouse when you come inside and see the hope for the entire season laid out in front of you.

Aside from being a great trip down memory lane, it is also a great opportunity to realize every season brings its own challenges and as a result is a learning opportunity.  I can deal with a windy spring and I have devices in the shed I can bring out to protect my garden from the harsh brutality of the wind, and a cold spring is hardly a problem at all – things just take their time.  And a wet season, well I am learning patience.  At the end of the day if I’m a little bit late it won’t be the end of the world.

Of course we all hanker for that perfect spring that is cause to celebrate.  Maybe next spring will be the one.

Come again soon – I may be investigating how to grow rice in my impromptu paddy field.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


The things you do for spuds

After making disparaging comments about how the seed potatoes at the garden centre were available far to early for growing in my neck of the woods, I strangely found myself at the checkout clutching a bag of Swift spuds.  It may be too early for growing outdoors, but surely it’d be ok to grow them in my unheated greenhouse…

New potatoes

New potatoes are such a treat, gently cooked with mint and coated in lashings of melted butter…. hmmmm so very good!

That was 87 days ago, and since then I have cared for these apparently unseasonal goodies with all the passion of a new season tomato seedling.  I started them off, barely covered and as they grew I topped up the potting mix and compost blend.   I fed and watered them with great care and attention as they were the only things going on in the garden and I really needed to itch that green thumb.  And they flourished magnificently.

Indoor potatoes

I think maybe next year I won’t be so quick to judge the garden centre with their early season spuds, but will be quick to get them in my trolley!

Then I made the decision that they would accompany our dinner of roast lamb so well, it was worth digging them up three days early.  The yield was pretty decent and enough for two good meals.  I still have four more containers of spuds to get through as we enjoy fresh spring produce.

However it was the other things I found in the container that kind of freaked me out.  I knew they were there, but not in such great numbers.   I had been plagued for ages with woodlice and ants in the greenhouse and had repeatedly tried many ways to get rid of them but without success.  So I decided to let them make themselves at home amongst my spuds and then, upon harvest I could remove the entire population in this sacrificial soil. Although it was kinda creepy while digging through looking for spuds.  I’ll have a good look in the greenhouse today to make sure they have been evicted for good.   Now I just need to deal with the white fly before it finds my tender wee seedlings.

Roast Lamb

Roast Lamb NEEDS new potatoes!

Oh and for the record the meal was delicious. Home grown everything is an amazing way to eat.

Come again soon – the rain will eventually pass.

Sarah  the Gardener  : o)

Green life

In an ideal world, I would sit back and wait patiently for the water to drain away the the soil to stop making that sucking noise as it absorbs as much water as it can to store away for the long dry months to come.   But I’m impatient and this season isn’t going to wait with me.  Maybe if I just ever so gently pull a few weeds.  I’m not going to walk on the beds or anything and I won’t be doing any heavy digging.  It’ll be fine.

Weeds in soggy soil

It’s only a few weeds – it wouldn’t take much to pull them out….

If it wasn’t for the seedlings in the greenhouse that I can tinker with, I’d be lost.  They are coming along so well, I fear I’ll run out of space.  I still  have all my cucumbers, zucchinis and pumpkins to plant, as these grow too fast to start too early.  Having them hang about in pots longer than necessary will give no favours.

Greenhouse seedlings

Each day the jungle grows and takes over the empty spaces in the greenhouse.

The tomatoes I once feared had died in the frying before they’d even emerged, have put the overheating setback behind them and risen from the soil as strong seedlings.  The thing is – so have the ones I planted to cover any potential losses.  I now have twice as many as I actually need.  The funny thing (I can laugh about it now) is I carefully planned the garden this season an attempt to be organised and efficient and so everything in the the garden has it’s place and all temptation to over plant removed.   Now it will take all my self control not to think “oh one more won’t hurt” and I shall be very generous giving away all my excess this year.

Some days, as the rain beats down on the panes of glass in the greenhouse, I like to just sit there and observe.  I like to notice all the nuances of each seedling and how even within the same species the varieties can be so different. It is so hard to imagine how these tiny fragile seedlings will grow on to be such robust plants holding a great weight in fruit.   There is such wonder and awe to be gained from taking the time to watch a garden grow.

Come again soon – soggy spring will soon give way to sunny spring and we will all rejoice!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


Spring Showers

The clocks went forward last night, to reflect what we are all doing – looking forward to warmer, sunnier days.  We were rejoicing at the extra hour of daylight we have been given in the evenings.  We made great plans as to how we were going to utilise that first hour of the magical extension to the day, once we were able to drag our weary bodies out of bed much earlier than normal.

Not really a gardening day

Not really a gardening day

However, spring had different ideas and rained on our parade.  It has done nothing but rain all day and as I sit here looking out the window trying not to rue the lost opportunities to garden until I can barely see in the fading late evening light, I am choosing to look on the bright side.  This is giving the earth a deep moist foundation to enter the hot dry season with and in a few short months I will be grateful for this enforced rest day.  So I am choosing not to moan about spring showers, no matter how heavy they are.

Even in soggy times I can’t stay out of the garden and risked pneumonia, or at the very least a bit of a sniffle, because even a wet garden is a beautiful garden and I had to soak it in!

Come again soon – rain makes things grow and keeps a keen gardener busy.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Late for Christmas

I am the kind of person that leaves Christmas – not exactly until the last moment, but I sail close to the wind.  My preparations are reactive, not proactive as every year it takes me by surprise.  Except when in comes to my spuds.

Under normal circumstances I’m thinking of Christmas a whole 100 days in advance, so I get my spuds in on time.  It is a tradition for me in September and again on Christmas day, when I go out to the garden and gather fresh produce for the Christmas dinner.   However this year I got a tad confused.  I’m thinking of suggesting to the family that we celebrate the big day a little later to suit the peak perfection of my spuds.  I’m sure that will go down well.


Come again soon – only 96 days until Santa drops down your Chimney!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


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