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December 2010

November 2010

RIP Rescue Chickens, fantastic garden helpers

Late last night just as we were going up to bed, My husband went to close up the chickens as we've done for the last year. - The only trouble was that a Fox had got there before him, and our lovely rescue chickens Sally and Princess Leia were no more.

We live in a semi rural area, and the houses that back onto us face a field and a farm, so it's hardly suprising that there are foxes around, we just hoped that locking them in at night, and only letting them into their run while we were at home would save them.

When I was told last night, I wasn't that upset, - life goes on kind of thing, and it isn't as if they were house pets, that got cuddled, - but today as I can't work because of the snow, and as I look out over the garden at their empty run, I realise how much they've been a part of my and the garden's life this year.

-empty coop this morning in the snow :(

At the beginning of November last year, we received the Chicube run that we'd ordered at the Malvern Show, and installed our Rescue chickens in it. I wrote about it here

They obviously liked being Free range rather than kept in a cage, and produced the first egg for us just 2 weeks later on my Birthday. Since then they have averaged about 10 eggs a week between the 2 of them.

Although getting eggs has been fantastic, - for me as a gardener, that hasn't been the greatest benefit. For me, Having to go out into the garden every morning and evening to feed them has meant that i've had to walk past my greenhouse, and vegetable bed. It's meant that I can't ignore if plants need watering, and the odd weed or 2 has been removed at each pass by. It's meant that my compost bin has had a regular weekly top up of high quality nitrogen rich fertiliser, it's meant that lots of my scraps don't go to landfill or even in the food waste bin. on top of this, it's meant that every slug and snail i've found has been thoughrly enjoyed by 2 chickens keen to recycle my garden pests.

So I shall remember Sally and Princess Leia with a smile, and hope that they Rest in Peace, - and now i'm off to find some replacements, so that I have an excuse to go down the garden, and my veg patch and greenhouse won't get neglected


Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

I'm feeling fairly pleased with myself this year, as all of my vegetable beds are full of overwintering crops, that will feed me between now and April.

Trouble is, when the weather's like this, and the temperature hasn't reached above zero, - they're all frozen.




good job I don't have to be self sufficient and there are fruit and veg in the fridge and freezer for dinner.


Protecting your pots over winter

Freeze, thaw, freeze, freeze thaw.

Your outside pots are having it hard at the moment. - expanding and contracting on a daily basis is fine for some materials, but for terracotta, and some plastics the constant pressure put on them at this time of year is too much. Cracks start to appear, and then water gets into the cracks, - expands when it next freezes and your pot falls apart.

Here are my tips for keeping your pots in one piece this winter.

1) Ensure that drainage holes are as large as possible and are clear of roots and debris

2) Stand your pots on feet or bricks so that water can drain out


3) only water your pots in the morning when there is no frost, - so that water can drain through before it freezes again at night.

4) move pots to the shelter of house walls if possible, to raise the temperature slightly,

5) wrap in fleece or bubble wrap to help keep temperatures more even.

If your pots do fall apart this winter, - use the broken pieces for drainage crocks, and make sure that the pots you buy next year have larger drainage holes.

Can I put leaves in my compost heap?

with all the rain and wind last week, most of the leaves are now on the floor, so there's going to be lots of hard work over the next few weeks to rake them all up, - but what do you do with them?


Mixed leaves like those I swept onto this groundsheet last week, will rot down to make a fantastic leaf mulch over the next 18 months to 2 years, even if you just leave them in a heap, or put them in a bag.


but can you put them in a compost bin?

Well in small amounts you can, - BUT, because leaves take 18-24 months to become this fantastic mulch, and the other contents of your compost bin will only take 6-9months (if layered properly), I've found that it's a lot easier to separate them out where ever possible, and use leaf bins, or bags.

plastic or wire mesh will make a great bin, or big bags (like builders bags) - the 3 things that are needed are water (wet leaves rot down a lot better than dry ones - not usually a problem here in England) air, and time.

more details about making leaf mulch here



Birthday bloomday post November 2010

I've been really lax about showing you what's flowering in my garden over the last couple of months, - I've even taken photos a couple of times, but never got round to posting them, so here in are my bloom day posts for today

The Nerines are star of the show, - I said I was going to add more last year, and in February when the bulbs are available, I forget, - I will this year, as I want extra displays of this lovely late bulb.

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Hiding for the winter

At this time of year as the garden winds down, it's tempting to shut up shop and retreat indoors. But that's what a lot of the pests in your garden are doing as well, - so if you can stay out there a bit longer and hunt them down, - you'll be streets ahead next year.

Snails and slugs like to congregate in hidden places. This bunch were hiding behind some crocosmia which was growing against a wall. Phormiums are another favourite hiding place, and long grass either around tree trunks, or in borders is another meeting place.

If you also check any pots you have sitting around, particularly lifting them up and looking in drainage holes, - that's where I can win at slug and snail bingo!

When you've collected them all up, - what you do with them is up to you, - My chickens are very partial to molluscs, so it's in my interest to get as many as possible, for them to feed on. A bucket of salt water or a well timed boot (yes I am brutal when it comes to my garden enemies) works well, - just don't be tempted to loft them over your neighbours fence, - recent studies have shown that they're likely to come back!

Raspberries in November

if you read my earlier Harvest post, and thought I was joking about the raspberries, - you'd be wrong, - look.

Ok i should have put a copy of the Sunday Times next to them to authenticate them, but honest, - I picked and photographed (and ate) these Raspberries this afternoon 7th November 2010, and there are actually a few more on the plants that aren't quite ripe yet.

The harvest from my Autumn bliss canes this year has been incredible, - starting at the beginning of August, and including winning me (along with my blueberries) the West Horsley Horticultural Society Fruit Cup. I've been picking a bowl of raspberries a week at least. for the last few weeks, it has been down to a teacup size bowl, but heh, - this is into November.

The Secret is, - well i'm not quite sure... They are in a sunny spot in my garden, (but they are only 5 metres from a very tall conifer hedge) There are 2 rows of about 2 metres each, planted about 1.5 metres from a fence. I started with about 15 canes, (and there were about 7 canes of summer fruiting as well) but now there are more than that. -They did get watered a couple of times, from my water butt, but not on a regular basis. They've been planted for 2 full years now, so this is their 3rd season. They were mulched with homemade compost last winter, and have been fed once this season with Worm leachate.

I do however pick them very regularly. I also don't let any fruits that go over stay on the plant.

I'm pretty sure this is the latest i've ever got raspberries, but even if I don't get any more from my plants this season (go on sun, shine this week to ripen the rest) i've got about 3 punnets worth in the freezer. So i'm hoping for a couple more raspberry smoothies at least this year, and very much looking forward to even more next year.


Harvest for this w/e 7th November 2010


The crops are getting slightly scarcer in the Brown vegetable plot. - This week i've harvested

Coriander confetti, Cavelo Nero Kale (2 portions), Can Can lettuce, Rocket, Red russian kale leaves (for salad) and a colander of Rainbow Chard.

The star of the show though was the bowl of raspberries, - which we've just eaten for pudding in Eton mess.

Tomato review 2010

it's over a month now since I harvested the last of my tomatoes, but those that were still green have been gradually ripening on the window sill, so i've been busy using them up.

Here's my review of what I liked and what worked well for me in 2010.


last year I grew 5 types of tomatoes, this year I went slightly over the top and grew 10.

My favourite for the year by far was new to me and was suggested at my Sarah Raven vegetable course earlier in the year. - Red Alert was easy to grow (pictured above), and produced medium sized red tomatoes with lots of flesh, - ideal for tomato soups and sauces. - I'd been told that a down side was that it tended to all ripen at the same time, but I had the first ones before I went on holiday in July, and harvested the last 4 green on the 27th September and they are still in the fridge (still looking healthy) ready to be used. The only problem that I found was that very few of the seeds that I germinated as Red Alert, actually turned out to be that variety, - the others were probably Gardeners delight and were a lot smaller,- don't know if it was miss labelling ( by me when sowing) or a dodgy lot of seeds.

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