Tuesday 3 November 2015

Leaves & Ixias

The leaves are hanging on  and coming down slowly and persistently. Here's a photo of the leaves on the grass on Saturday morning. We spent most of the day sweeping, hoovering and collecting via the lawn mower and filling two black compost "Daleks" with damp leaves which in a year or so will be lovely leaf mould.

Fallen leaves - mostly cherry, silver birch and maple and some from the big ash in the field.

The days have been a bit grey with thick fog in the morning and evening. But there are some bright spots. These lovely Ixias make a colourful show.  In the photo, the centre of the Ixia flower glows - it's not like that in real life - just picked up by the camera. Presumably this glow attracts bees and insects to pollinate. We have some lovely red tulips that keep the same glow for the bees and the camera. Ixias grow from small bulbs and they spread easily However, last year I saved the seeds from some of the Ixia flowers and they have germinated nicely. Hopefully some will be big enough to plant out to brighten up another spot in the garden next year.

Beautiful Ixias (Kaffir lilies?) brighten up the grey autumn.

The centre of the Ixia flower glows - shows up in a photo .

These tulips show their glow on camera - like the Ixias.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Autumn leaves

Suddenly everything is golden. The leaves on the trees - those that are still attached - are various shades of yellow, red and brown, but mostly bright, golden yellow. The big cherry tree has started to drop leaves, aided by the stiff breeze. The big ash that we were so worried about in the early summer is completely denuded. Now it's a playground for all kinds of birds as a staging post between the rowan berries in our neighbour's garden and the bright red berries on the big hawthorn tree in our hedge. Big fat wood-pigeons, crows, blackbirds and some smaller birds which I think are field-fares. There's also some very small birds - possibly long-tail tits which move so fast I can't identify them. They are fun to watch.

The leaves are so lovely I made a picture from some of the maple leaves.

Autumn leaves from the maple.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Grave digging

I'm not a fan of Will Self's poetry, but this piece about gardening as a reflection of our mortality made me smile.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34538014

Will's childhood experience in the garden - climbing trees and digging holes - is more like my gardening. I really enjoy just being out there with the bugs and birds and dirt. I'm not a decking person - I prefer to sit on the grass. Love growing veg and fruit because home-grown is pesticide-free and in any case I hate to shop. But everything else is really just watching what happens - and wonder.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Spider webs

We're well into Autumn with lovely early morning mists and dew and the occasional light frost. There's a definite chill in the air even when the sun is shining - as it is now.

The leaves are turning golden and red. the variegated maple and the plums have shed nearly all their leaves. The big ash tree in the field is dropping leaves already, even though it was so late in coming into leaf this year we were worried about ash die-back. (Actually it's mostly young ones that suffer from this and our tree must be at least 150 years old).

The dew in the mornings gives some wonderful sights like these amazing spiders webs.

Spiders take advantage of the old rose arch

Amazing structures spun by our spidery friends

Thursday 17 September 2015

Autumn harvest

Season of fruitfulness!

All the apple trees and the plums are overloaded with fruit. We haven't yet picked much but we've been busy processing the fallers:

  • Marrow and apple chutney
  • Plum and apple chutney
  • Apple and blackcurrant jam
  • Crab apple jelly

and all kinds blackberry and apple crumble, apple pie, apple meringue, Dorset apple cake and baked apples using the lovely sweet russets.

This year we planted a variety of squashes, marrows and courgettes. We've been harvesting and eating courgettes during the summer and now the squashes are maturing. Squash roast in oil or fat with a dusting of sage, salt and black pepper is always good, or with bacon and squares of brie (or dollops of no-fat quark if you're on a diet). This year we had a new addition to our squash family - a Turks Turban weighing 5lbs.  Last night we roasted this and ate it with a bacon risotto and French beans.

Squashes, marrows and courgettes from our garden
including a 5lbs Turks Turban squash

Monday 31 August 2015

Poor man's ratatouille


1 kilo marrow (skinned and de-seeded) or overblown courgettes
500 g onions
1 kilo tomatoes or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
5 cloves garlic
1 red pepper (optional)
2 tbsps tomato paste or puree (optional)
Herbs - bay leaf, thyme, marjoram, rosemary
Black pepper & salt to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil


Skin and de-seed the marrow and chop into 2cm cubes (very rough guide)
Peel and chop the onions - roughly the same size as the marrow cubes.
Chop the tomatoes if using - or open the tins!
Peel and chop the garlic.
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy pan or oven-ready casserole that can go into the oven.
Add the garlic and marrow and cook for 20mins,
Add the onions and cook till onions starting to soften.
Add everything else.
Put a lid on the pan and either cook slowly on the hob or in a medium oven for an hour.


Serve hot with sausages, pork, cheese-on-toast or whatever you fancy.
Freezes well.

Summer days

Not sure what happened to July and here we are at the end of August! At this time of year there's lots going on in the garden and we've had several friends visiting. They love to spend a few days in the country ("it's so quiet!") and enjoying our home-made food. So not much time for blogging.

The soft fruits - currants, loganberries and gooseberries and the first flush of raspberries have all gone - the birds took all the redcurrants before we could net them and quite a lot of the blackcurrants. The raspberries and loganberries were pretty good with enough to make raspberry jam and put some in the freezer. The second flowers, on this year's new raspberry canes, are just opening and are buzzing with bees. At least they were for the last few days. Today it's raining heavily and the forecasters warn there will be two weeks rain falling today.

The weather has been pretty mixed with some very hot spells interspersed with grey, drizzly and rainy days. There's been a few days of heavy downpours. But overall I have the impression that the season has been fairly dry. The green pipe has not been running and when digging potatoes the soil has been quite dry.

Potatoes have ben a bit of a disappointment. The Kestrels and the Pentland Javelins were very good quality, hardly any worm holes, but mostly small. Keen gardeners will refer to to my previous post about the poppies and nod knowingly about how I should have done more weeding.  But some "feral" Desirees left from last year and growing under the runner beans are enormous - also with no infestation or damage. I have yet to dig up the official Desiree patch. I did manage to weed that a bit and being a later variety they kept the leaf for longer than the whites. I'm hoping!

Marrows and squashes have done well. Struggling to keep up with picking the courgettes to avoid them turning into marrows. The larger courgettes become soup or souffle and the marrows into chutney and "poor man's ratatouille" which is a kind of stew with marrow, onions, tomatoes and loads of garlic and herbs. It's good to freeze and bring out in the winter with chops or sausages.

All this activity to a backdrop of gorgeous flowers, pretty butterflies and dragonflies and accompanied by birdsong and aerial displays of the swallows. Wonderland!

Thursday 16 July 2015

Poppies in the potatoes

I'm a dreadful gardener - look at the potatoes that I planted back in March! I didn't get around to hoeing this patch and then when the self-sown poppies started coming up I thought I'd wait and see the flowers. Well here they are. I dug a row of Pentland Javelins last week and they were fine so maybe the poppies haven't done too much harm. But today I went to dig some Kestrels for tea and there were so many bees buzzing in the poppies I had to go and dig up some "feral" potatoes growing by the broad-beans. These are ones which have come up from tubers overlooked last year and usually provide some extras to the official planted potato crop.

Poppies - lots of them - growing between the potatoes.
Beautiful big red poppy.
I should have weeded - but they are lovely - and the bees enjoy them.

Friday 10 July 2015

First Raspberries

Picked a punnet of raspberries yesterday. There's plenty more ripening and more flowers on this year's shoots. Instead of cutting down the raspberry canes during the winter as I was always told, in the Spring I just cut them to about 2 ft and clear out the dead canes which have fruited for two years. (See Pruning raspberries in the sun.) This way I get an early harvest and a later one too.  Also picked a handful of loganberries which are well loaded with ripening berries. Have to watch out for the pigeons which have now devastated the unprotected row of blackcurrants and will be looking for something else to plunder.

Raspberries are just lovely as they are, and I'll make raspberry ice-cream for a delicious treat.

These are the ones that made it to the punnet. Quite a few more straight to my tummy!

Thursday 2 July 2015

Hot garden round-up

Hottest days since 2006 apparently! The last two days have been unbearably hot - the garden thermometer showing 31 C. The tomatoes in the greenhouse have been wilting despite watering twice a day. African violets on the window-sills in the house have got scorched with the sun. I've been out with the hose in the evening to keep the vegetables and salads going and the fruit trees. The apple trees are loaded with small fruit and are at risk if they don't get enough water. I think the last serious rain was two weeks ago and the ground is pretty dry.

Despite the dry weather the broad beans are doing well. We usually have a couple of meals from the top shoots, but this year, after one meal of  bean tops last week, and my advice in my blog post, the black fly have got in there probably boosted by the hot sunshine. Nasty little things and not worth bothering to clean the shoots. Don't think I'd enjoy them wondering if I was going to bite into a bunch of crunchy aphids (although I always say you can't be an organic gardener and a vegetarian!). The blackflies suck the goodness from the plant, especially the small developing beans, so I've given them a good spray with dilute washing-up liquid. They certainly squirmed a bit so hopefully there will be less today.

The French beans have been eaten by something - rabbits, pheasants? but the Runner beans are doing well with plenty of bright red flowers. The lettuces and rainbow chard are still going strong.

The marrows and courgettes and squashes are all doing well now after a shaky start. One of the bought-in courgette plants is producing lots of yellow courgettes so looking forward to tasting them when they are big enough.

We've had to abandon the redcurrants this year - the pigeons have been eating them green. So we've netted one row of blackcurrants and the pigeons have moved on the the second row of blackcurrants. Yesterday 12 pigeons flew up as I walked up the path. The gooseberries are great. We had a gooseberry meringue pie at the weekend and looking forward to gooseberry fool / pie / ice-cream......

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Broad bean tops and potatoes

Our plot isn't big enough, and we don't have the time, for us to be self-sufficient in fruit and veg. But it's just wonderful to be able to nip up the garden and grab a lettuce, dig a few potatoes or acquire some green veg such as broad bean tops or rainbow chard.

Last night I picked some broad bean tops. The leafy shoots just above the flowers are really tasty, steamed or cooked in a tiny amount of water like spinach. Then I dug up some potatoes which had grown up from tubers overlooked last year. These "feral" potatoes tend to mature a bit earlier than this year's planted crop. They come up wherever we had potatoes last year and, because we practice crop rotation as much as possible, they come up amongst the beans or courgettes or letuces. So it's good to dig them up early and get them out the way.

Broad bean tops

New potatoes, scrubbed and in the pan to boil.
Get several potato varieties  - but they all taste good!

Picking the broad bean tops also helps to prevent black-fly which like to start at the succulent tips and work down. So get in early before they do and enjoy a tasty feast!

Saturday 13 June 2015


Some serious rain overnight and this morning. Very welcome because the warm, dry and windy weather has dried the ground completely and the water butts are getting low. We're concerned that the fruit trees will start dropping their little fruits, which this year are abundant on all the trees, and we were on the point of getting out the hose.

I see so many of my posts are about weather (about 82 out of 180 mention the weather!). But the weather seriously affects how the garden performs. The temperature, rainfall, and frost can bring forward or delay the seasons. Even sharp changes in weather can affect crops and cause conditions like the potato "Hollow heart".

The frost last week, the first week of June, caused serious set-backs to the marrows and squashes and the potatoes - more damage than I thought at first. It's a juggling match, whether to plant out veg that is growing out of it's pots and at risk of getting cooked in the greenhouse or to risk damage from a late frost.

It's often difficult to keep track of the weather. We remember the really dramatic weather events but find it hard to get an overall picture of weather and trends. Writing a blog like this can help the memory and allows us to compare weather and results year by year.

Wednesday 10 June 2015


June has been quite summery and warm so far but with cool nights. Yesterday I planted out 36 French Beans which were raised in pots in the small conservatory. They had started to climb around each other so they needed to be moved on. I added a barrow load of compost to the raised bed and set up 4 "wigwams" using steel poles and bamboo canes (mostly home-grown) and planted out the beans. looking good.

Then, locking up at midnight, I realised the temperature was dropping. At that time of night not a lot to do other than hope and pray.

This morning I wandered around to inspect possible devastation, but the beans were fine. However, the courgettes at the top of the middle veg bed had definitely been frosted, as had the fuchsia in a pot outside the greenhouse. Not too much damage, but just a warning that here in the East Midlands the weather can turn chilly even in "flaming" June.

Sunday 31 May 2015

Fresh green foliage

March winds, April showers, bring forth May flowers! as the saying goes.

Certainly this spring we have had some lovely blooms - especially aquilegias and rhododendrons. See a view across our garden:

View across our garden with brilliant rhododendron and blue, white & pink aquilegias
But at this time of year the foliage is just as stunning as the flower show. Herbaceous plants throw up bright new shoots and leaves which are so beautiful before the onslaught of bugs, slugs and dry weather

Archemillas - so called because sap from the plant was used in alchemy. This is actually their best time of year, because later on their bitty yellow flowers mask the beautiful leaves. They also seed everywhere, so best cut those flowers early before they set to seed!

Fantastic hostas in the garden around the pond. The i sculpture is home made from items discovered in the garden.

Delicate foliage from delphiniums

Feathery fennel

Dramatic flag irises at the border of the pond

New water-lily leaves - with rather a lot of pond weed.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Ground elder and bees nest

We have a horrible invasion of Ground Elder. This is creeping in from the adjacent field and despite much pulling and hacking in previous years, and indeed complete digging over of one bed and putting down a plastic membrane, the stuff keeps coming.The roots are worse, if it's possible, than couch grass and bindweed, and it's already going up to flower.

So at the weekend Paul got stuck in again. After half an hour's digging Paul reported a lot of buzzing, angry bees. He'd dug up some herbaceous plants, aquilegias and cornflowers so at first we thought that the bees were cross that their food source had been moved, But they kept coming, hovering just above the soil. Eventually we discovered that we'd disturbed their underground nest. Another small dig with a trowel and there were bees flying out everywhere. So we covered up the entrance hole with some leaves and left them to it  ..... and went on to another patch of Ground Elder, we have lots to choose from!

This morning the bees seemed to be going about their business as usual.

Monday 25 May 2015

First potatoes

We had our first potatoes of 2015 today. About 2lbs of lovely firm, delicious, white Colleen potatoes from one of our green tubs we started off in the conservatory.
It's great to eat our own produce.  The potatoes taste so much better than shop-bought and there's no chemicals added.

Friday 22 May 2015

Marrows and squashes

We're fairly keen about marrows, baby marrows (i.e. courgettes or zucchini) and many varieties of squash. They are usually fairly easy to get started from their big fat seeds in small pots in the conservatory or greenhouse - or even on windowsills in the house.

But some years we hit a problem - and this is one of those years. We planted 9 Green Bush Trailing marrow seeds from a new packet and only one germinated. The survivor is growing into a nice sturdy plant, but 1 from 9 isn't a good ratio. After 3 weeks I checked and the seeds hadn't rotted or been eaten, but were just not doing anything.

In desperation I bought some seedlings at a local Plant Sale. These are a different variety Nero Di Milano which we haven't grown before and I believe are used mostly as courgettes rather than leaving to grow to marrows. It's good to try new things. Also picked up a Turks Turban squash seedling, sounds very exotic. This is a stuffed Turks Turban - recipe from Sue Lau on Food.com. Look forward to trying that later in the summer!

I've since planted 5 seeds from last year's packet of Green Bush and 3 have come up pretty quickly.

I keep seeds from our harvest and sometimes from bought Butternut Squash. Unfortunately I'm not much good at labelling them. So the squash seeds I planted could be anything. Previously this random process has produced a variety of stripy green or yellow squashes of different sizes and shapes. They are all good in soup or roasted with some fennel seeds or sage!

Small courgettes and marrows in pots in the greenhouse

Butternut Squash seedlings - plus some weeds. I use our own compost which is good but not weed-seed-free.

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Composting Week

It's International Composting Awareness week! 
Not sure if the timing is someone's quiet joke given it's UK Election week. But it is actually part of the United Nations Year of the Soil - see www.soils.org.uk/international-year-soils-2015-0 - which is raising awareness of the importance of sustainable soil management as the basis for food, fuel and fibre production and essential ecosystems. It's also highlighting the role of soils in adapting to climate change for future generations. So pretty important.

At Froggarts Cottage we take composting very seriously. We have three 6ft square wooden compost bays built on soil and we use them in rotation. So we are using one to put the new vegetable matter in, the second is covered and processing nicely turning it over every couple of months and the third, now full of pretty good stuff, we use for topping up the veg beds, greenhouse and for re-potting things. It takes about 18-24 months to generate good compost for use.

We also have a couple of those "dalek" plastic compost bins which we bought for our previous house (with postage-stamp garden). We use those for rotting down leaves which take longer than other waste. From time to time we'll mix some well-rotted leaves into the main compost.

The only difference I can see between our compost and what you buy in shops is that ours still has weed seeds in. I guess the commercial stuff is heat-blasted to get rid. In fact our compost has a better mix of soil to vegetable matter which makes it better for potting or sowing big seeds like beans. Some of the shop stuff just looks like wood chips.

What do we put in? Grass chippings, weeds (but not couch grass or bind weed which I consign to a fiery end on the bonfire), ashes from the bonfire, trimmings from herbaceous plants and shrubs, vegetable waste from the kitchen, egg-shells, shredded paper, card egg-boxes, toilet roll middles and other light cardboard. Occasionally we get a boost from passing horses or a bag from the local stables.

I do worry that some of the waste from bought-in vegetables may not be too healthy. I never put in potato peelings - there's too many bugs and viruses - and since the allium leaf miner I don't put in onion or leek peelings either. Those bugs may well have come in from foreign farms. Obviously using waste from bought fruit and veg means our compost isn't organic.

There are lots of theories and advice about composting, but generally it all works out OK if you keep it mounded up, not too wet or dry and turn it over every couple of months. Let the bugs, worms and bacteria do the hard work!

Monday 27 April 2015

Spring frost

The gorgeous sunny days we've had recently have lulled us into a false security. Over the weekend I was tidying up the greenhouse ready for planting the tomatoes in a couple of weeks. So I dragged the big pots of potatoes outside. They looked pretty sturdy and I thought they might benefit from fresh air and maybe a drop of rain. I put out a fuchsia too.
Well, the inevitable - a frost last night zapped the potatoes, not too much, and devastated the poor fuchsia. Hopefully it will survive. It was donated by a neighbour who told me it was hardy and she always left it outside all winter.
The magnolia, which this year had escaped the usual "toasting" by spring frosts and has been glorious, definitely has a brown tinge.
However, the potatoes from the conservatory in pots just outside by the house were unaffected.
Undeterred, and with the promise of rain this evening, I planted out 50 beetroot seedlings in the "leek bed" (where we don't grow leeks anymore because of the allium leaf miner).

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Shiny red tulips

Most of the daffodils have faded and their colourful display is being replaced by tulips. We have several clumps just outside the kitchen window. When the sun is out the red tulips shine with what seems like an inner radiance. It's quite difficult to photograph them. The camera picks up the sheen as bright yellow or white, whereas the human eye just sees a plain, even-toned red. Maybe it's to attract the bees which have different colour sensitivity to humans. Plenty of bees buzzing around this morning. Some seem to have set up home in the UPVC door frame of the utility room, where the cover for the hole in the plastic for fixing is missing.

Bright red tulips with a yellow glow picked up by the camera

Red and yellow tulips outside our kitchen window

Tuesday 14 April 2015

April flowers

Over Easter and the week after the weather has been brilliant - warm sunny days with just occasional cold wind and showers. Great for the flowers and trees which are starting to blossom. Birds are singing and starting to nest - a proper Spring!

It's been so lovely I've spent a lot of time in the garden - planting potatoes and beans, sowing salad and chard, potting up primroses that have seeded in the lawn - and not much time blogging.

The snowdrops have all gone over but there are hundreds of daffodils of different colours and flower-shapes growing in the beds and the lawn (great excuse for putting off the mowing!).

Some of the spring flowers are so lovely and delicate like these Erythroniums - or dogs tooth violets - growing in our front garden. They're not violets at all. Apparently the "dogs tooth" refers to the shape of the bulb.

Eythroniums or dogs tooth violets
Erythroniums or dogs tooth violets

Also Snakes Head Fritillaries which increase every year and  whose bell-shaped flowers come in a variety of colours between deep purple and cream all with their distinctive check pattern..

Snakes head fritillaries
Snakes head fritillaries

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Garden tools and machines

Well, it's April - well into the gardening year now! Still lots of tidying up and digging over to do.
I'm not a great fan of tools and gizmos but my son and hubby reckon gardening is an excuse for getting out the toys (sorry - tools) like hedge-cutters, rotovators, lawn-mowers etc. I occasionally get slightly excited about secateurs and loppers but really enjoy digging with the old heavy spage and yanking at weeds with my bare, muddy, hands.

But if mechanisation is where you're at try this link to Garden tools and stuff from Amazon and have a look around. (I get tuppence per cent from anything you buy - so go for the really, really expensive machines!)

Monday 23 March 2015

Bumble bees

Seen a lot of big bumble bees especially on the hellebores and heathers. We've had a lovely few days with quite a bit of warm sunshine during the day which has brought out the garden flowers nicely - daffodils, hellebores, primroses, little pink starry bulbs....I saw a deep red camellia in full bloom up by a house up on the main road and some ornamental trees looking gorgeous.

However, no honey bees yet. Maybe they are still being fed by their keepers and don't need to get out yet. Hope this isn't a sign of empty hive syndrome around here. There's loads of flowers, both in the garden and the surrounding fields and hedgerows. I can't believe that not enough food can be a problem for fewer bees. More likely disease or pesticides.

Monday 16 March 2015


Harvested our first Rhubarb today. This year I tried "forcing" the rhubarb by covering one of our eight plants with a big black dustbin. The result is slightly earlier harvest of tender pale-pink stems. Some people reckon this is the only way to have rhubarb, though I've always loved our rhubarb just as it comes. Today's "forced" harvest was very tasty. Definitely tender - had to be very careful harvesting to avoid pulling up whole shoots instead of just a single stem. I pulled four stems from the unforced plants and cooked them all together - just roasted in a covered dish with a little sugar. Looked so pretty with the sugar I took a photo. Tasted pretty good too (with custard & cream!).

Forced rhubarb on the right is paler and longer and the leaves look very anaemic.

Rhubarb cut and sugared in the dish ready for roasting.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Sprouting Colleens and Broad Beans

The Colleen potatoes I planted a couple of weeks ago in the conservatory are sprouting already. It's been pretty warm in there during the day.

I'm planning to plant Broad Beans this weekend - some in pots and some direct in the soil. It doesn't seem to make much difference to the success and productivity but it's fun to watch the progress of the potted beans from the warmth of the conservatory! I usually save seeds from one year to the next but this year I've bought a packet of 30 ( masterpiece green Longpod) because some of the saved ones have a bit of brown mottling which I'm a bit concerned about.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Spring sprung!

We've had a few lovely sunny days. The birds and spring bulbs have definitely declared it's Spring. Wonderful to be outside, even just tidying up. Although I love my day job as website designer and marketer I'm starting to resent time spent at the desk and not out in the garden with these lovelies:

Purple crocuses in the grass

Hellebores and snowdrops

Small blue iris peeping through on the rockery. Don't remember this in previous years.
Plants arrive without any help from us - or maybe result of creative neglect!.

Saturday 28 February 2015


Planted up 3 big pots of potatoes - Colleen which are first earlies. They will stay in our unheated conservatory until the growth starts to get big and susceptible to aphids. They are horrid to have in the conservatory and then put them outside where maybe the birds will feast on them

These Colleens are saved from last year's crop. This is something I've done for a few years with Desiree and Sante potatoes. Often that's because if the winter is mild the stored ones are starting to sprout so aren't much good for eating.

However, a couple of years of success the yield has been a bit disappointing. Mind you, the bought ones haven't been brilliant either. (See "Review of the year".)

I had a useful Christmas present book "Collins Pests, Diseases & Disorders of Garden Plants".This is a compendium of all kinds of pest,diseases and disorders of plants, vegetables and trees. You can look things up in two ways - by pest and by plant. So if you look at potatoes it will give a list of all kinds if diseases and also problems that occur from drought, over-watering, soil conditions, etc. and also problems that occur during harvesting and storage.

So the nasty brown cavities in the middle of some of the potatoes, with no sign of ingress by worms, were identified as "hollow heart" caused by alternating dry and wet spells of weather. The book also explains that potatoes are affected by viruses which are transmitted by aphids. The virus damage is limited in the first year but saved potatoes get worse each year with the result of second and third year yield getting poorer and smaller. The seed potatoes you buy are from Scotland or Northern Ireland where the colder weather means fewer aphids and hence less virus infection.

That's been my experience so I shall buy in some new stock this year - Pentland Javelin, Desiree (which generally do well here) and a new one to Froggarts Garden - Kestrel.

On a good note - the potatoes in the pots in the greenhouse which I planted in November are just showing very small shoots. I'll have to cover with fleece to shield from the frost I'm sure we'll be getting during March. (Very mild today.)

Tuesday 24 February 2015


Horrible weather the last two days. No chance of any outdoor activities - so I made Marmalade.
3lbs Seville oranges and two large, juicy lemons, cooked, depipped and chopped into slivers. Boiled up with 6lbs sugar (sounds awful but the resulting marmalade in still tangy, not over-sweet) to make 10 medium jars and two little ones. Very nice with granary bread for breakfast!

Delicious Seville Orange Marmalade

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Allium Leaf Miner

In report by the RHS into "Top 10 reported pests of 2014" Allium Leaf Miner appears for the first time.  This report appeared today in Horticulture Week with a graphic photo of the damage Allium Leaf Miner does. http://www.hortweek.com/allium-leaf-miner-hits-rhs-top-10-pests/plant-health/article/1334304

We've been plagued for the last 4 years (see previous entry about onion pests) and despite not sowing leeks or onions for a couple of years and covering with fleece its still managed to ravage our leek crop in 2014. I'm wondering if I should dig up all the chives. We have a couple of clumps of chives which seem pretty healthy, and I love to eat the purple flowers in my salad, but maybe they are harbouring the nasty bug.

Apparently this bug first appeared in the UK in the East Midlands so we're in the thick of it. However, I'm a bit jealous of a local allotment-holder who has rows of lovely leeks.

Thursday 12 February 2015


The snowdrops have taken their time coming up in the grass but they're now looking good. The weather has been a bit stop-start and the spring bulbs are behaving accordingly. The daffodils up on the main road were in bud during the snow at the end of December and are only now struggling to show some colour. Usually they are giving a brilliant show by mid-February.

Snowdrops in the grass under the trees at Froggarts Cottage

Snowdrops are always popular. There are so many varieties - tall, slender, single bloom to short, frilly doubles. At the Thringstone Community Centre table-top sale on Saturday I sold 10 pots of flowering snowdrops and could have sold as many again!

Friday 30 January 2015

That was January!

Not much to say about the garden this month. The weather has been varied - from heavy rain to frost and now snow - so there hasn't been a lot of opportunities to do much gardening. I stole a few sunny mornings to dig over part of the vegetable plots and add a bit of compost and to cut back quite a lot of ferns (bracken) and dead foliage which with the wet weather has just been lying all soggy over the soil.

Single snowdrops
Snowdrops are coming up. The single ones mostly in the flower beds are a little ahead and standing up with their heads bobbing. The ones in the grass (can't call it a lawn!),  mostly doubles and a bit shorter, are just coming up now. Have to be careful walking on the grass because it's full of little green & white spikes.

There are just a few hellebores in flower. Bulbs generally seem a bit behind. I suspect this indicates more cold weather before the end of the winter.

The water level in the surrounding field is pretty high with the green pipe flowing strongly and the pond almost over-flowing.

Friday 9 January 2015

Heritage Orchard

Happy 2015! The weather has been crazy so far - the remains of Boxing Day snow, hard frost interspersed with torrential rain has kept the garden out of bounds - so some additional research (i.e. browsing) time.

Found this Heritage Orchard site www.heritageorchard.co.uk while checking out Leicestershire events for the Coleorton Parish website.   They run various talks and courses related to Leicestershire apple varieties. But their site also has links with mountains of information about vegetables, fruit and potatoes. I will be spending more time there, especially checking the potato varieties and pests section!