Thursday 31 December 2020

Brrr...Winter Snow

Last day of 2020 - and very cold. 

First snow of the winter fell two days ago and lots hasn't melted yet despite some lovely sunshine at times. Makes a change from the dreary and wet wrathe we've become accustomed to.


View from the kitchen on Tuesday morning

The veg beds yesterday morning


Yucca and a lily brave the cold

Monday 23 November 2020

What's growing now

It's the back end of November. The days are shorter and the light not so bright during the daytime. Last night was the first real frost of the year.

We've eaten all the potatoes we grew this year (there's four adults in the house to feed now), only a dozen or so tomatoes ripenng on the kitchen window sill, beans and the first sowing of pointy cabbages finished. So what's left:

In the garden:

  • Lots of celery - great germination and planted out about 36 seedlings which have now become a forest. We eat quite a lot in salads and stews and just to munch. I've put some in the freezer for winter cooking.
  • Brussels sprouts - doing brilliantly this year. We've already had several meals and will have some tonight. There are two groups, one planted out from their modules a little later so are further behind. So we should have plenty into the new year.
  • A few kale plants - looking rather sad because the cabbage white caterpillars devasted them early on, but are now pushing out a few leaves which will go in stir-fries.
  • A lovely patch of rainbow chard - provided many meals already and looks like they will continue through to the spring.
  • Peas - an experimental late planting in the ground where some potatoes were lifted.  They are doing surprisingly well and producing some lovely, pest-free peas, though not more than a spoonful for each of us. Lots of flowers still. Next year I'll plant a whole lot more. They are frost-resistant.
  • A broad-bean sprouted in the compost - so I thought I'd give it 11 more for company. I don't usually do autumn-sowing because they come up quickly and early in the spring anyway. But we'll see. Another way of using the space after the potatoes have been lifted.
  • Rhubarb - is already sprouting, so covered with a good mulch of garden compost to protect from the frost and give them a boost.

In the greenhouse:

  • 5 pointy cabbages in the soil where the tomatoes were earlier - 1 Dutchman and 4 "Tinty" red ones. These have been great outside all year and these late sowings into small pots seem to love their new home.
  • Two little gem lettuces remaining from two troughs sown earlier. They have been doing well all summer (outside during the warm months) with successive sowings.
  • Two troughs of mixed lettuce seedlings
  • Trough of spring onions
  • Trough of Charentay carrots - small but tasty.
  • 2 large pots each with 3 Pentland Javelin potatoes saved from this year's harvest. Planted these yesterday. I usually plant up a couple of pots just after Christmas, but the weather has been so warm (except for frost last night!) I thought I'd jump the gun and try to get some earlier spuds (especially since we've finished all the store).

In the conservatory:

We have a large, very light conservatory which isn't heated, but is warmer that the greenhouse during the cold winter months. Good for starting off seeds.

  • Pot of parsley seeds. The summer outdoor sowing didn't take at all, they were rather old seeds, so hopefully these will come along better. But they are very slow-growing.
  • Tray of Ailsa Craig onion seedlings.
  • Radishes - haven't grown these for a while. All the seeds germinated and are looking happy so maybe Christmas radishes?

Spare bedroom:

  • 7 tomato plants on the window sill! I really don't enjoy shop-bought tomatoes so would love to find a way of growing them through the winter. Last year I made (at The Shed) a planter with a trellis for growing a clematis and flowering plants and in June replenished it with garden compost. In addition to the flowers up came 7 tomato seedlings. They looked pretty healthy so I potted them up and had them in the greenhouse for a while. A couple had flowers and one had two tiny fruits.
    As the weather got colder I brought them into the conservatory, but it was too cold. So I took them upstairs where it's warm and gets more sun in the mornings. I also draped some LED Christmas lights around to give more light. Initially they produced a lot of flowers which I dutifully tickled up with my Mum's paintbrush, but they didn't take. The two tomatoes are growing steadily though! There are a few more tiny buds, so maybe.....



Tuesday 17 November 2020

November flowers

 It's NO-vember - damp, grey and dark by 4 o'clock -

but there are still some flowers out there bringing a bit of colour to the scene.

Fuschias still glorious in there pots outside the conservatory.
They'll need to come indoors when it gets frosty.

Don't know the name for these. Their colourful flower spikes bloom from mid-summer onwards through the autumn.
A hellebore! They normally start to flower in january or February. Crazy seasons!

Cyclamens and sedum still flowering, though not covered in bees as they were in October.

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Tomato & Chilli Chutney

At this time of year the greenhouse tomatoes are coming fast and furious in the lengthening sunshine and the chilli plants have given their all, so a wonderful way to create a reminder of summer during the winter days is this delicious chutney.


  • 4 lbs tomatoes 
  • 1 lb 6 oz onions 
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 5 small fresh chillis 
  • 1lb 6 oz sugar 
  • 5/8 pint vinegar 
  • 6 oz sultanas 
  • 2 ins piece of root ginger  or 2 tsp ground ginger 
  • 2 tsp of dried marjoram or a bunch of fresh 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • Couple of twists of black pepper 
  • 2 tsp black mustard seed (optional)


  • Put clean jars and lids in oven at around 120C for half an hour

  • Chop onions into small pieces 
  • Chop garlic into tiny pieces or use a garlic press 
  • Wash tomatoes, remove stalk and any hard centre
  • Chop the tomatoes inc skin and pips 
  • Chop chillies finely, similarly the root ginger

  • Put all the ingredients into a heavy pan, preferably stainless steel. Cook on medium until the onions and tomato skins are soft then cook gently until it thickens up a bit. This may take an hour. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. It makes a fairly soft chutney.
  • Put hot into the warm jars filling them up to the top and put lids on right away. (I use lids with the button that goes down when the chutney cools and stays down so you know the seal hasn’t been broken.)

  • Label and store. Ready to enjoy in 2-3 weeks.

    I made a batch with 3lbs tomatoes – everything else pro-rata - and made 5 and a half 300g jars.

    Download pdf of Tomato & Chilli Chutney recipe >>

    (from my other website!)


Monday 7 September 2020

Autumn approaching

First week of September gone already. There is definitely a feel of Autumn in the air - cool wind, even when the sun shines, and earlier evenings of course. Lots of trees are showing yellowy or brown tinges and Autumn colour in the garden comes from the lords and ladies, pink autumn-flowering cyclamen, rose-hips and rose flowers. The big pink sedum, which the bees and butterflies love, is beginning to open.

View from the greenhouse across the veg plots & rhubarb
Sedum beginning to flower, rose-hips and a carpet of pink autumn-flowering cyclamen

Lords & ladies glowing proudly

Tuesday 25 August 2020

Missing my Tuesday fix!

It's Tuesday and I'm missing my fix - my usual weekly session at Men and Women in Sheds in Loughborough.

Like most other activities its been put on hold because of the Covid thing, though hopefully opening again soon. See what we get up to at

Pottering around the garden I see some of the things I made:
Garden table and a store for all those awkward bamboos and stakes.
Staging for the strawberries and seed trays in the greenhouse.

A-frame to support climbing rose

Friday 7 August 2020


Desiree potatoes harvested August 2020
Desiree potatoes harvested August
2020 has been a pretty good year for potatoes. As usual in Jan and Feb I started several pots in large containers in the conservatory and then several more in big pots and compost bags in the greenhouse. They provide a tasty early crop before the outside potatoes are ready. Santes, Desitees, Robintas saved from last year and some shop-bought organics that had started sprouting.

The rather wet spring meant the potatoes went in late March and end of April, not quite as early as I'd have liked. But even then we had a light frost in May which knocked back the early growth a bit.

First plantings were Orla and Pentland Javelin - both white earlies - followed  a couple of weeks later by the Desirees. I bought fresh seed potatoes for the Orlas and Pentland Javelins and some Desirees, but I also used some Desiree tubers saved from last year. 

As well as these deliberate plantings a reasonable number of what we call "feral" potatoes emerge from the vegetable beds where potatoes or bits even have been missed when we harvested last year. These actually provide some useful additions to the crop.

After harvesting I let them dry off for a couple of days, well covered with thick cardboard to prevent them going green. Then I sort into small or damaged ones - which go into the kitchen cupboard to be used right away - and good, medium and large ones which I store in sealed cardboard boxed in the garage (nice and cool). Wine boxes are great because the inside cardboard bottle spacers keep the potatoes apart and prevent any mould or rot spreading.

Very little by way of underground damage, worms ir slugs. There are some decent-sized Desirees that I'm looking forward to baking.

Friday 31 July 2020


Royal Chantenay carrots
I've never had much success growing carrots. I've tried sowing them direct in the veg plots and I've tried in large pots. This year I sowed some Royal Chantenay carrot seeds in the green plastic troughs that we used to use as window boxes with geraniums in the summer. They are just the right size and the Chantenays don't need a great depth because they are small conical-shaped carrots. I raised the trough up on a double row of bricks to get them above carrot-fly range (so far so good!).

The carrots are delicious! Excellent steamed or gently microwaved. So two days ago I sowed another batch. Jo Hashman (Dirty Nails) suggested a late sowing was worthwhile, especially in a container that could be taken into the greenhouse when the weather gets wintery. I'll let you know how it goes!

On-the Plot - a week-by-week journal wandering through his garden with hints and tips and philosophical musings.

Thursday 16 July 2020


Went for a gentle saunter "around the block" this evening and walking along the footpath down from the Rec I was delighted to see a couple of bats.

I got back home about 10pm, made a cup of coffee and sat outside the greenhouse for a while. Several bats out hunting. Seemed to be two types, small and slightly larger.

A couple of nights ago I met a couple looking out over the meadow at the bottom of the road by the brook. They had a device that slows down the frequency of the bat calls so humans can hear them. They identified different bat species by their calls.

Good to know the bats are still around after the building up at the old school and at Yew Tree House.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Around the vegetable plots

After the frantic Spring digging, sowing, planting out, the vegetable garden is producing the goods.

Everything seems to be coming along nicely, even the runner beans are catching up after suffering from frost, slugs and rabbits. This year I've been careful to protect the sprouts and cabbages from butterflies and pigeons, using frames made from plastic cable ducting and fine-guage netting. The cable-ducting was an idea picked up from the garden at the Men & Women in Sheds at Loughborough.
Middle bed has peas, broad-beans, celery, cabbages, brussels sprouts
- and poppies

Through the poppies - view of broad beans, coming to the end now,
and across to the walnut trees and up to the old school.
Celery doing really well - and tasty!
First time we've tried growing celery, but the shop-bought stuff is full of chemicals.

RH bed with rhubarb, horseradish, potatoes and runner beans on the frame at the top

Tuesday 24 March 2020


Beautiful sunny morning - Spring is here!

and a tiny Goldcrest tapping on the window. He (or she) was feeding off the small aphids that are already covering the climbing rose around our front door.

I have never seen a goldcrest here before - only seen the pictures in bird books. Hope he brings his friends.

Regulus regulus japonensis face