Category Archives: Gardening

Allotment: Seven Weeks In

I can’t believe I’ve only had my allotment for seven weeks!  I am staggered by how much I’ve achieved already.  In fact, almost every spot of earth is full right now!

Allotment Seven Weeks

To have gone from this patch of bare earth to a productive plot in that time just goes to show what you can achieve when you put your mind to it (and an awful lot of elbow grease too!)

Allotment Seven Weeks

I’m trying out all sorts of things, fruits, vegetables, salads, flowers, it’s all going on!  I should be able to actually eat something within the next week, all I’ve had so far was a radish the size of a five pence piece when I was thinning them out!

Allotment Seven Weeks

I got a little carried away with my shed, but it’s a lovely space, Darcy has a little bed in there so he can hang out and supervise and I put tiles down on the floor so it’s always cool for him.  I’ve got everything I need, when I eventually get the chickens I’m planning on having fresh eggs for breakfast here every day.

Allotment Seven Weeks

I even had a go at building my own greenhouse, they didn’t make one in the size I wanted so I cobbled one together with my ever developing DIY skills!  It’ll do the job for now, anyway!

Allotment Seven Weeks

Stay tuned for some recipes using the produce I manage to grow, I’ve gone for loads of radishes as they’re so quick to grow so 101 things to do with a radish may have to start soon! Oh and if you have any hints and tips for how to fight back against the slugs with a small curious dog running around do let me know!


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Ok, I admit it, I’ve gone full on “The Good Life” recently.  Following on from learning all about Beekeeping I volunteered to help clear ground for an apiary allotment site near my house and found out that there was a small starter plot up for grabs.  Well, grab it I did!

The beginning of the Allotment!

This is what I started with.  About 5m x 16m of weed suppressed ground.  I have spent the last few weeks digging and fencing and working away.

Lots of Digging!

There was an awful lot of digging.  The ground didn’t have any weeds, which was a blessing, but it did have a load of crushed plastic pots, a shovel, a rake, a fork, a pickaxe and a hammer all rotting away, along with what might once have been a green house base?  Anyway, it all needed clearing and levelling and the clay soil enriching.

Allotment Books

I’ve also developed a naughty habit of buying the Amazon 1p plus postage books on gardening.  In fact I’m awaiting delivery of a few more that caught my eye this week!

The Plot as it stands!

This is where I’m up to: fences built, beds marked out and paths laid.  I’ve crops in the ground and I’m preparing to build a chicken run at the far end so I can have fresh eggs too!  More on that and the epic shed move soon!


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My 30th Birthday BBQ

30th Birthday BBQ - Me on the patio!

To celebrate my 30th Birthday over the weekend I threw a small BBQ party in my garden.  The weather had been glorious all week but come the weekend rain was predicted.  Never fear!  I had a plan!

30th Birthday BBQ - Awning to protect guests from the rain!

I have an extendable awning for over the patio and I stretched a shade sail over the lawn to provide an even bigger canopy propped up with a pole in the middle and anchored to the fence posts on the corners.  This way most of my garden was sheltered and I could happily set up everything under cover in case of rain! A few shower curtains filled the gaps over the food and drink stations.

30th Birthday BBQ - DIY Bar

I set up a little bar so people could help themselves to drinks throughout the evening.  I am so in love with the drinks dispensers!  I set them on cake tins to give them a bit of elevation.  I also went the plastic and paper cup route.  No point in crying over smashed glass!

30th Birthday BBQ  - Pallet side table and flowers

I went to town on the flowers and decorations!  A few sawn pallets stacked up made a nice little coffee table on the lawn (and helped to stablise the pole!) My flower arrangements were made up of peonies, roses, rhododendrons, chrysanthemums and sweet william with rosemary for greenery and fragrance.

30th Birthday BBQ - Roses and Rosemary in Diet Coke Bottles

30th Birthday BBQ - Candles and Flowers throughout the garden

I had plenty of seating set up so people could suit themselves and lots of cushions and blankets to keep everyone comfortable.

30th Birthday BBQ  - Guests mingling under the canop

30th Birthday BBQ- the Lawn seating

Darcy got a little bit overwhelmed by all of the people but he soon bounced back and mingled with the guests stealing bits of BBQ!

30th Birthday BBQ - Me and Darcy!

30th Birthday BBQ

I got all crafty for this shindig too!  A polystyrene wreath covered in cocktail umbrellas decorated the front door to greet my guests.

30th Birthday BBQ - DIY gold glitter letter sign

I cut out letters from black posterboard and then covered it in gold glitter paint for the ANNA 30! and DRINKS signs.

30th Birthday BBQ - Food and Drink Stations

I kept things nice and simple and self service through the night.  I had got Tesco Bumper Party Bags of BBQ food, which were excellent value and had everything you could need! Everything got cooked in the oven and then served buffet style.  Paper plates and pink plastic cutlery meant that at the end of the night cleanup was simple!

30th Birthday BBQ- Ombre Birthday Cake

The cake went down very well!  I went for a 3 layer ombre victoria sponge.  Darcy helped to clean up!

30th Birthday BBQ - Darcy cleaning up cake plates!


All in all a wonderful evening filled with fun,friends and food, what more could a girl ask for?

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In The Garden: Tiny Wildlife Pond

I try to keep my garden as organic as possible. I may in dire circumstances use insecticide but only as a last resort.  I refuse to use slug pellets in particular because they are terrible things… Which leaves me with the problem of what to do with the £&@!ing slugs! They eat EVERYTHING!!! I have managed to get the birds used to the idea that there is food available to encourage them to come to my garden and snack but I want to encourage the toads and frogs to take on the ground assault! 

This is my tiny little Wildlife Pond tucked under the bench in a shady spot. It’s a cat litter tray! Simple and effective! I’ve piled rocks and stones around it and made sure that there is easy access and exits to allow my amphibious friends to come and go as they please. Even though it is sheltered it stays topped up with rainwater and I can easily add more to it in hot weather from the rain barrel. Hopefully the motto “if you build it they will come” will ring true and the frogs and toads will find it a welcome addition to the garden and they will nom the slugs for me! 

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In The Garden: February 2015

I’ve been taking advantage of the winter months to finally get to work on some construction projects I wanted to get done in the garden.  I find it so depressing at this time of year, the wheel has turned and spring is on its way but the plants are still in their sleepy winter mode.  I can’t wait for the place to be green and blossoming again and so my thoughts turn to the coming growing season.  My big project this winter has been to construct a big raised bed for veggie growing!


I wanted a raised bed for a lot of reasons, and it’s a huge one for another bunch of reasons!  First and foremost, I want to grow my own veggies this year.  I tried my best last year but the little space and sub par growing conditions I had available meant that it was basically a complete wash out.  Now, you may think it would be easier to just grow veggies in containers or the ground… let’s just refer to Exhibit A in that picture above, oh yes, the small, fluffy vandal!  I have given up trying to stop him from eating the herbs, mostly because he smells FANTASTIC when he finishes! But veggies are a different matter, I don’t want them trampling by little furry feet.


The ground I had to spare wasn’t really going to be suitable for growing anything at all without an awful lot of work, there was gravel mixed in with the soil, some random blobs of concrete, all sorts of rubbish!  By putting the growing soil on top of this mess after a bit of a tidy up it means I am in control of the condition of the soil from the get go.  The grass I had dug up to make the flower border last year had turned nicely into loam and could be moved across to fill in part of the bed.  To further improve the soil condition I’ve installed a worm tower (plastic pipe with holes in) which will be perfect to dispose of the small amounts of vegetable waste I produce and inject some goodness straight back into the soil!  Raised beds also make it a lot easier to get at and maintain your plants, this makes all you rmaintenance much easier and if it’s easier you will be more likely to stick with it and make it work, I know myself!  I’m just that bit lazy!


That’s not to say that this hasn’t involved a lot of work.  I am not a natural DIYer.  I have had to learn and guess as I go (and phone my dad for advice a lot too!)  Wickes is open nice and late, I’ve been hanging out there a lot recently!  I was lucky enough to get most of the wood for this project free from skips in my area.  The only timber I purchased was for the long front side as I needed nice, uniform planks.  Those 5 planks were ~£15 from Wickes and look great!  I used the existing fence posts as anchor points for long batons, making sure not to attach anything to the fence panels as these may need replacing in the future, the posts are in for the long haul though!  Only 2 sides are solid wood, the others have a baton top and bottom and the plastic lining is stapled around the inside to form the walls, which are supported, but not dependent upon, the fence panels.

I assembled the long front side separately (making certain I had all of the measurements correct, and left room for joining it all together!) and then moved it into position and secured it to the fence post.  Then the short solid side went in with each plank slotting in and being screwed into the fence post and the corner post on the long side.  I hope this will be a nice, secure, stable arrangement.  I definitely tried not to cut corners and do things properly as I want this bed to last a long time!


In order for this to happen I also had to work on replacing some missing fence panels and securing the back of my garden, we have a narrow access to allow people further down the row access to their gardens and I had taken down the old, rotten fence panels months ago with a view to replacing them with new ones… the budget wouldn’t really allow for that right now so I ended up bringing back the old fence panels (which, thankfully, I had stashed elsewhere!) and cutting off the tops and bottoms and replacing the arris rails to make new, half height fence panels.  This means that I am now confident that my garden is doubly secure for Darcy.  I have gates across my section of the access but my neighbours can be a bit rubbish about shutting both gates.

In case anyone else is wondering, yes, it is possible to saw down and re-position a 6′ fence panel on your own with little to no previous DIY experience.  Would I recommend it? No.  Is it possible?  Absolutely!  Did I nearly die/fall off step ladders/ saw my own hand off / swear more than is appropriate for any young lady?… May be?


So, now I have the back part of my garden almost as I would like it.  I want to move the shed round but the manpower for that is tricky to organise so that’s on hold until BBQ weather comes along and I can bribe helpers! Until then there’s plenty to keep me busy!  Once the weather warms up I need to finish painting the fences and I want to plant some clematis on the rear fence to bring a bit more greenery into the view.  The pots down the side of the garden need a bit of a tidy up too, it never ends but I’d be awfully bored without a project to go at!

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Field Trip! Helmsley Walled Gardens

Darcy has settled in well and has been allowed out and about for 5 weeks now!  This means ADVENTURES!  Therefore I thought I’d start a new series about the adventures we’ve been on so far and share our findings with you all!  It’s often difficult to plan a day out that works for our four legged friends as well as it does for us and often you need some insider knowledge to plan a truly brilliant outing for everyone.

So I thought I’d tell you about our first dog friendly adventure to Helmsley Walled Garden.  Tucked round the back of Helmsley Castle (which is English Heritage so dogs can get in here too!) this walled garden is one of those little gems you simultaneously want to tell everybody about and keep to yourself!




Every part of it is beautifully planned and executed and every area has something different to delight!  You start by the glass houses and work your way through beautiful borders, wildflower meadows, orchards, vegetables, chicken and bees, water features, you name it, this place has it!




It’s the most wonderful place to retreat to for contemplation and inspiration.  I’ve never yet left the place without another plant that I’ve seen in situ here and just had to add to my own garden!  (And the shop is very well priced, none of the extortion you usually see in places like this!)



The paths are well laid out, well maintained and, although I have no first hand experience, look to be easily accessible to push chairs and wheelchairs.  There are plenty of benches dotted about for you to sit and take a moment to enjoy the surroundings (or have a rest if necessary).



They also have a gorgeous cafe in The Vine House.  There’s plenty of outside seating, very comfortable, with umbrellas for shade.  The lunch menu is served from midday to 3pm and, although I didn’t partake this time around, I will definitely be planning another trip soon because it all sounded fantastic!



We went for a scone for myself and a slice of chocolate cake for my mum to go with our tea.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed when the scone arrived as there really didn’t seem to be enough jam but it was such beautifully sweet, tart, flavoursome jam that it worked wonderfully even with only a little bit!  (I’m also a cream rather than butter girl but sometimes sacrifices must be made!) I specifically hadn’t chosen the chocolate as it looked a little dry… How wrong I was! It was divine!  Beautifully moist and deeply chocolaty!  I can’t wait to sample the other cakey offerings (which were plentiful!) it all looked so good that there will surely be something to tempt everyone!



(No, I don’t know how he sees out either but he doesn’t walk into walls so clearly it works!)





All in all a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.  There’s plenty of parking in Helmsley on the market place and the longer stay car park (which is more convenient for the Walled Garden) and it’s not too dear either, I think you’ll want to allow yourself at least 2 hours for the garden and afternoon tea!  The rest of the town is lovely too with several coffee shops allowing dogs in or at least with outside seating.  Entrance to the garden is £6 (and you’ll want to complete a gift aid form ;o)


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The Shed

One of the major plus points to my new garden was that it came with its own shed.  A shed is a fantastically useful thing and it would have been a real stretch to find room in the budget for a new shed.  Paint, however, paint I can afford!  I have always wanted a Forget-Me-Not Blue shed.  Don’t ask why but it’s always been a ‘thing’.  I have never really painted anything so I jumped right in with my usual “How hard can it be?” approach.  If you ever wish to paint something… put down a drop cloth would you?


The first wall gets it's new look!

The first wall gets its new look!


The front wall and door hadn’t weathered half as much as the other walls so before I painted this one I gave it a quick sand down to get rid of some of the darker stain.  The rear and side walls had a bit of an algae problem but a quick brush over with some thin bleach took care of that without any hassle (Try not to drip on your nice clothes… in fact, just don’t wear anything nice to do these jobs!)


And finally, a little bit of white for the trim!  Now all I have to do is figure out if I can move it without it breaking as whoever decided to put it a good foot away from the fence needs shooting, WHY?



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The Lawn

It is amazing what a difference simply mowing and edging the lawn makes!  It’s still about 40% dandelion but that can be over looked when you see the nice, crisp edges and neat mown grass!






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I’m in the Garden!

Hi Everyone!

Well, as you can see I did my usual trick of disappearing into the garden at the first sign of spring.  My kitchen has been abandoned to languish in the doldrums of pasta and pesto dinners as I spend every spare minute of daylight out in my garden trying to put in all the groundwork so that come that ever so fleeting British Summertime I can enjoy the fruits of my labours in my idylic little patch!

However, this year I figured that instead of allowing you to be greeted by radio silence perhaps you might like to see what I’ve been up to.  It will all loop back to food eventually, I have plans for a bit of a veg patch and am already anticipating a gorgeous glut of courgettes to reward me come summer.  And let’s not forget the BBQs I’m already planning on my cosy little patio!

Now, when I moved into this house in September this is what I started with:

The view down to the house when I first moved in.

The view down to the house when I first moved in.

After a bit of mowing it's still quite a mess!

After a bit of mowing it’s still quite a mess!

In some ways it is perfect, a blank canvas! But it was very far away from the garden I dreamed of.  I love that typical English Cottage Garden look, big beds full of flowers all year round, a little patio area perfect to while away the summer evenings and long weekends, a place where friends can gather and relax.  So I have a lot of work cut out for me!

I had a bit of a head start in that all of my plants at my last house were in pots as I had only had a yard there so I had the filling, it was the structure that I was lacking!

The first stage in the garden, moving in the plants!

The first stage in the garden, moving in the plants!

The first major change was that nextdoor (who moved in around the same time as me) decided to redo their fence.  Now, technically that one is my fence but they were paying and I didn’t object!  Not neccessarily the fence I would have chosen myself but infinitely better value!

An unexpected challenge was what to do about all of the local cats who had decided that my lawn was their litter box.  You can see the sonic scarer I put in first… don’t bother.  As far as I can tell it scared away may be one of the cats.  The rest continued until I finally hit upon Wilkos’ Cat and Dog Repellent Granuals, they’re awfully garlicy but they WORK! I’m still not done fighting this particular war but it’s down to the occasional skirmish now.

The right hand border cut from the turf.

The right hand border cut from the turf.

My first major step in the garden was to start by putting in the large flower bed I wanted… well, I wanted to eradicate the lawn competely and give over the entire garden to flower beds but I was over ruled by my mother, who pointed out that I would want somewhere to put a sun lounger in the summer and could I really afford to plant up the whole garden in one go?  The woman had a point and so I cut a 90cm border down the right hand side of the lawn.  I did it all properly, measuring and marking with string, using a long plank to keep the edge straight.  Let me tell you that was a labour of love!  I saved all the turf and made a loam pile too (more of which in a later post!)

The brand new border and flat edging made from recycled firebricks from old storage heaters.

The brand new border and flat edging made from recycled firebricks from old storage heaters.

Having spent hours digging up turf, digging over the soil and adding compost (with a knackered back following a car crash no less!) I then decided that 90cm was too narrow and I added an extra 20cm strip to the edge.  This allowed the outside edge of the edging to finish in line with a paving slab at the top, which looked a lot better at that end and also alowed me to retain a decent sized border even with the flat edging I wanted to use.  That edging is a stroke of recycling genuis on my part!  Those are the fire bricks I salvaged from the storage heaters at my last house and then brought with me to this house.  (Over the vehement objections of my parents! Ha, suck it!) They are flat to the lawn and the bed, which will allow me to mow right up to the edge of the lawn without a bit of bother.  If I’m keeping the lawn, I’m making it as painless as possible!

The read of the bed is edged with salvaged slate roof tiles.  The garden next door is at a lower level than mine so at some pointe the soil on my side is a good few inches up the fence so the idea behind the slates is to just give the fence a little bit of protection from the soil.  Also, I just really love slate!

The border with all of the plants in their pots being arranged.

The border with all of the plants in their pots being arranged.

Next the plants in their pots were placed in the positions I thought I wanted them to go in in the bed.  The basic idea is herbs nearest the patio and back door for easy cooking access.  Then a section for flowers, then shrubs at the far end with a small section of roses furthest away.  I really took my time over this bit making sure I was happy and had thought each bit through, how high the plants would grow, when they would flower etc.

The right hand border all planted up.

The right hand border all planted up.

And finally, the plants go into the bed at long last!  I’m pretty sure I’ve covered all of my bases and this arrangement should grow into exactly the kind of bed I want.  There’s still some room for additions and changes and everything should fill out nicely.

I’ll do another post to show some of my inspirations that are guiding the project.  My Pinterest has an ever growing collection of ideas and inspirations.  I’m also a huge National Trust fan and visit all sorts of places with a special love for the gardens.  If I can end up with a garden that is even vaguely remeniscent of some of my favourite gardens then I shall be happy indeed!


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