The Phantom Tomato Bug…?

I have been away quite a bit recently so haven’t bee able to update on here as much as I would like but here a few photos of the current growth spurts…

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But what on earth is going on here?!

marigoldMy poor marigolds were planted as a sacrificial tomato protector, but they seem to have some sort of white bug infestation…

I’m going to go and have a good google and see if I can find out what these are. Anyone else have any ideas?

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Sunday Sunshine

Morning!

We have had a lovely but very busy weekend organising wedding stuff the past few days, including spending a few hours having a fabulous drive down to the wedding venue in Shrewsbury. I can’t wait, it all seems very real!

In return for my wedding organising day, I went with MrT to a new motorbike shop so he was pretty pleased too.

When we got in it was still lovely weather so we popped down to the lottie for a bit… glad we did because look what my neighbour left me!

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So many toms!

So while MrT chopped the tops off some milk bottles for me, I dug up my over-wintered strawberry plants from the greenhouse.

He potted these up in to the new milk-bottle-homes and I started planting my toms!

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More toms, less space!

I was told last year that my planting layout wasn’t very economical, so I am following the advice in this years planting. Apparently if you place your tomatoes in a staggered formation, you can fit more in a smaller space and still get enough air circulation to avoid blight! Lets give it a go!

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So Leafy!

Now you see all those fluffy bits on the greyish area on the bottom of the stem? They turn in to roots! So I take off the seed leaves and stem (those funny shaped ones at the bottom) and the next set of leaves up.

Also, you notice those shoots appearing from the tomatoes ‘elbows’? Remove those whenever they appear, no matter how old the plant. They sap all of the nutrients away from the main stem and fruit trusses and make your crop smaller (apparently!).

 

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This is how it should now look!

Now dig a hole big enough to cover the roots and that greyish area of stem.

When plating tomatoes, its good to add a bit of fertiliser beforehand. Lots of people use eggs and banana skins, but I just put in some fungi powder and crunched up egg shells.

Now is also the time to put in your tomato collars if you use them. I haven’t invested in any yet but I have heard good things! They make watering easier and help the fruits avoid splitting.

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All in!

By the time you have finished, your plants will look about half the height that they did, but don’t worry. They will have a huge root ball now and grow much better.

Water them in really well, but don’t get it on the leaves. Water on the leaves makes them burn and go spotty. It doesn’t harm the plant in small areas, but it can wilt them quite badly!

Don’t they look fab!?

So while I was doing that MrT had watered all of my onions, garlic and spuds, replaced all of my weedguard, fed my chickens and quail and made this stunning bit of wall art

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Strawberry wall!

Isn’t he a good egg?!

We had a lot of trouble with bunnies and slugs eating my fruit last year before they were ripe, so hopefully this will help avoid that. It also helps with recycling all of that dreaded plastic! Just make sure you poke some drainage holes!

Now just to repaint the wall and it’ll look ace.

I am so proud of him
It’s still not worth a new motorbike though…
Maybe when he has built my fence!

When it rains, it pours

Cold and wet day down the lottie today, but the hens were happy and the blossom is out!

Rosmary flowers

Apple blossom

Cherry blossom

Strawberry flowers

Pear blossom

Strawberrys

The hens were treated to another hay bale today to try and soak up some of the rain. The old stuff i dug out i put around my berry canes. Hopefully this will be a wonderful manure for them! I love raspberries and am hoping for my first home-grown crop this year.

Hopefully a bumper crop!

The rain them started belting down, but as i was already up there i wanted to finish up. I covered much of the top end of the bed in weed membrane as the same sun that has helped my plants grow has also helped the weeds, and i wont have time to get it all perfectly dug over like the spud bed.

Weed membrane, trying to battle nettles!

All home and clean now, but my boots have seen better days! Poor things have got so many holes in now, they definately arent waterproof any more!

Ready for a nap!

Back off up there tomorrow to get some sunflowers in for my friends wedding… lets hope its drier!

Spiced Marrow Cake

Yet another glut of marrows, they seem to be never ending!

These were supposed to be Courgettes, but since we went away for a week I’ve come back to some serious monsters.

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Its huge! 

Now what to do with them?

We tried a bit of the old roasted marrow, but it’s not particularly flavourful and MrT got all cheffy on me about it. So while he went off to work in his baking hot commercial kitchen, I pottered about my own little ‘Heart of the Home’ and came up with this spiced marrow loaf to get rid of the glut.

Four cakes from one big marrow

Four cakes from one big marrow!

It freezes really well and is great with an afternoon tea in the sunshine or as a quick sweet treat. It a lot lighter than you’d think it would be and is super easy to make, just mixing and baking.

They also make great gifts wrapped up in paper and with a nice ribbon, but that far too pretty for me and my parchment and string did the job!

Marrow Cake

Wrapped up, although not for long!


Ingredients;

2 hen’s or duck’s eggs (mine came from my ex-batt girls, so super fresh)
200g of caster sugar
100g of softened butter or “baking spread”
3-4 drops of vanilla extract
300g of marrow, well grated skin and all
300g of self-raising flour
1tsp of baking powder
1tsp of cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger, whichever you fancy (I use cinnamon)

How To;

Grease your loaf tin and add in a rectangle of baking paper in the bottom, overhanging the sides to make your loaf easier to lift out.
Heat your oven to 180°, or 160°fan.
Mix together the butter and sugar until it is light and creamy.
Add the eggs, vanilla and marrow and mix well until combined.
Add the baking powder and spice to the flour and combine.
Gradually stir this into the wet ingredients, being careful to work it as little as possible. It should look like a dough.
Plonk this into your greased and lined tin.
Bake for about an hour, but keep an eye on it after 50 minutes. It should be golden brown and a skewer/knife should come out clean.
Let it cool down in the tin a little bit, until it pulls away from the sides.
Use the paper tabs to lift it carefully out of the tin.

Let it cool fully and enjoy!


These cakes are a great way to use up courgettes and marrows, and they can be frozen after cooling. Simply bring it out a few hours before you need it and let its thaw thoroughly before enjoying.

You can also add other ingredients; nuts, raisins, sultanas, all work great in this loaf!

We like to eat it with a good spoonful of my Marrow Jam, and a nice cuppa. It store really well too so you can easily wrap it up and take it down to the allotment again.

Perfect for a sunny afternoon.

Marrow and Ginger Jam

We went on holiday. Don’t do that if you have an allotment. What was a courgette at the weekend was a marrow as big as my thigh by Thursday.

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MrT and the Giant Marrow

So what on earth can you do with a giant marrow other than the usual roasting?

Marrow and Ginger Jam

Marrow and Ginger Jam!

I saw a recipe for Courgette and Ginger Jam, and altered it a bit to gave it a try with my huge marrow.

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That’s my leg! And that’s my marrow!

You’ll need a big old jam pot or heavy based saucepan and a sugar thermometer if you have one. If not, don’t worry, I have a good trick for that! You can also test the jam without a thermometer by putting a plate/saucer in the freezer well before you start cooking your jam. plonk a little spoonful of the jam onto the frozen saucer, and wait for it to cool. If you then poke it with your finger and the jam wrinkles up, it has reached setting point. No wrinkles? Keep boiling it a while longer!

Id also recommend investing in some good jam jars. Places like Wilko’s often have them on sale through summer/autumn and if you get pretty ones they can make great Christmas gifts. That’s where most of mine went!


Here are the ingredients you’ll need;

  • 4 lemons
  • 2kg marrow
  • 2kg jam sugar (with added pectin)
  • large knob fresh root ginger, about 95g

How To;

To make the jam, grate the zest from the lemons but be careful not to also grate off the pith, which is the white inside layer. This is really bitter. Then juice them, and reserve the juice, shells and seeds.
Tie the pith and seeds up in a muslin bag or a clean tea towel if you don’t have muslin.
Chop your marrow into rounds and remove the seeds from inside.
If you want to include the skin (I did – looks good and makes it marmalade-y) grate the skin off the rounds using a cheese grater. If you don’t want to include it just peel your marrow and throw it. Then chop the remaining marrow into cubes of roughly 2cm.
Put the marrow and the grated skin (optional) into a preserving pan with 2 tbsp of the lemon juice, then cook on a medium heat, stirring often, until the pieces are turning translucent and soft but not mushy. Make sure the skin doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cook off any juices before stirring in the sugar, the rest of the juice,  and the muslin bag. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
The grate up the ginger, and stir this into the pan along with the zest of the lemons.
Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes until the marrow has softened completely and the jam has reached setting point (105°C or “wrinkly on a plate”).
While this is boiling, wash your jars thoroughly in hot soapy water, then dry in a low oven. You can also run them through the dishwasher, but this will take much longer and I find it harder to get them ready perfectly on time. 
Pot the jam into sterilised jars while the jars are still hot.
Lid, label and store your jam in a cool dark place for a few months and the flavour will only get better!


Now no more excuses for chucking out soft courgettes or big tough marrows when your plants really get going or if you miss one during picking

I love ours on toast or with some cheese and crackers.
Best of all is on top of my Courgette Cake!

 

Crikey it’s chilli in here. Let’s turnip the heat.

Everything is growing!

Isn’t mother nature wonderful?

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Giant Strawberry!

We were so late in the year getting the strawberry plants in that we didn’t really get many this year. And those that we did grow were ravaged by the blinking bunnies. And to think, i used to love watching them hopping about… not now!!

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A very proud chicken!

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My first cucumber! Now now, heads out of the gutter.

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Tommys and eggys!

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How cute are these baby peas?

As soon as everything starts setting pods/fruits, water is key. I am up there most evenings now when its been hot watering away! Just make sure that the sun isn’t still hot and that the water isn’t too cold, especially in the greenhouse.

I also make sure to give everything a good feed when they start fruiting. I don’t know if it is necessary, but it seems to be helping.

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Courgette tea!

Not everything is ready to eat yet though. Look how well the spuds are coming along. I am not sure if they are supposed to have flowers though?

I cant wait to get munching on my home grown veg! It seems to have been a long time coming!

Hard work doesn’t harm anyone, but I do not want to take any chances.

Every evening i have been up here weeding my beds with care, and locking up my chickies for the night. They have finally learned to take themselves to bed so now i just shut the door before i leave. It does mean i have to stay till dark though so I have started walking RicoDog down here to keep me company. He has made friends with them now. Isn’t he cute? If you ignore the drool…

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The sun is out, the plants are growing, and my Flatcap Friends have left me more goodies!

One day I will grow my own, but this year I will leave it to the pro’s.

Look at all of these that have been left over my nice new “sociable” gates;

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Green Beans i think?!

These all got planted up immediately. Mr Flatcap came to show me how to build a tipi for them. A tipi makes the beans hang down and means they are easier to pick than those hidden in the foliage.

You get a piece of string and two little sticks. Then you tie a string to one of the sticks, and decide how big you want your tipi. Hold the string in the middle of your tipi space and use the stick to draw a perfect circle around it.

Then tie the other stick 1 foot away from the other stick, basically a bendy ruler! Use your stick/string contraption to mark the distance between each pole, and then stick your bamboo poles in. You can make it as big or as small as you want. but these would be great for kids to hide from the sun when they’ve fully grown!

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Tin roofing sheets to give my chickies so shade

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Lettuce leafage for chickies!

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Bedding for chickes!

I think there is a theme to these presents… I am not sure if its me they like or my birds?!

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Some sort of squash? Needs a good feed apparently. Just like me.

So many goodies!

Some courgettes we bought from the garden centre on sale are starting to flower too! I had to cover them with netting as some creature of the night had chewed all the leaves when they were little… it’s not on. One day i will find out who did it and ‘av ‘um.

But the best thing about this visit?! LOOK!!

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Babies!

I have been feeding my tommy plants as instructed by Molly’s Dad on a regular basis and now they have made beautiful little baby tommys! Are they not adorable?

I’m so excited to try them.. not long now

What kind of apple isn’t an apple? A pineapple.

As you all know by now, my favourite type of gardening is maintenance free gardening.

This means as little weeding as possible, and as many ‘long lasting’ investments as I can find.

This weeks (ok more like fortnight!) project was clearing out the side of my greenhouse, and i had found the perfect thing to put there. An ‘orchard’.

We eat so much fruit, especially in the autumn, and it is one of the things I spend the most money on. So when I saw some fruit trees on sale, I had to grab them.

Looking back, i see now why they were so cheap. You are supposed to plant trees between November and February when they are dormant. You are NOT supposed to plant trees in the height of summer like I did. I really hope they live…

So this is the area i wanted to put them. Its a little raised bed area around the back of my greenhouse. This does mean that it gets pretty hot, but it also gets a lovely breeze blown through from the school field next door, so fingers crossed.

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Between the two greenhouses

Messy right? Well underneath those nettles is a shin height brick wall running right around to the front of that greenhouse.

So I began the long arduous job of clearing all of those nettles and brambles. You see those whiteish flowers right in the middle of the back? That’s rhubarb! Now I’m not a fan of shop bought rhubarb, but I’ll give home grown a go. I dug it up, keeping as much of it together as I could and hoped it would survive when I decided where to put it.

(Spolier alert – It did. And it spread. And now it is everywhere.)

It took me a fortnight of evening digging after work, but I finally managed to get the area clear. Just on a side note, if you get stung by nettles enough times, it doesn’t hurt any more. It just tingles. Not recommended, but I would love to know why this is!

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Getting there…

If you have noticed the sudden appearance of the pallets, they were a ‘present’ from work which will eventually become fencing. I currently have nowhere to put them so there they sit.

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Completely clear!

Finally I was ready for planting, just in time for my cheap trees to arrive. Also managed to pick up some super cheap strawberry plants while I was at it so they will go around the base of my trees this year and get moved next year to where I want them. When i have decided where i want them that is.

I began digging my holes, and i sprinkled a little of the same fungi i used on my tomatoes around the base of the hole to try and encourage the roots. I also drove a stake in for the larger trees at this stage, but ran out so fingers crossed the others live! Plonked the trees in, and covered the holes back over with soil. Firmed this in gently, but I didnt ‘stamp’ them in for fear of breaking what little roots these trees had. I then made my little moat around the root area and gave them a right good soaking when the sun went down.

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Trees!

I have always been told not to water when the sun is high as it can cause burns and shock to your plants. I don’t know how true this is, but it makes me feel like i know what I’m doing so I’ve stuck with that rule.

Next in went the strawberries. While I was doing all of this, Mr AcrossTheLane arrived and scared the life out of me lurking around the greenhouse. Turns out he did shout me several times, but I’m deaf when I’m in my own world. He bought some gorgeous homegrown strawbs with him, some huge! He had a glut and I had a rumbly tummy so it all worked out well. They were very tasty, but it did bring home just how late I was having to plant everything.

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All in!!

If I were a clever woman I would have probably done all of the clearing and long jobs this year and not planted anything at all. But I have always been impatient. Oh well, hindsight and all that!

My biggest recommendation though?
Suncream.

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Ouchy!!!


Time Travel!

I am now writing this is April 2018, having only just discovered the joys of WordPress.

My trees seem to have survived and have little buds on, and my strawberry plants got moved to the greenhouse for storage over winter while I reorganised their home.

I have now covered my trees bed in weedguard to try and kill off the last of the Rhubarb (not working by the way!) and have covered it in chippings.

Look how beautiful it is! Unfortunately they do keep getting attacked by the windows falling out of my greenhouse, but that is a project for another day.

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Low maintenance, and beautiful. I cant wait to site there with a brew under the leaves when they get a bit bigger. And when i have moved those pesky pallets…