Always label your freezer bags

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On Tuesday the blanket of grey, drizzly cloud that seems to have settled over us here in the south-east shifted temporarily. The sun shone, the birds sang, the sea glistened and I was invigorated enough to get into the garden. I weeded the back border and pulled out the annual grasses that had finished doing their thing and were flopping all over the place. I pulled out the tomato plants and cut back the first-year asparagus fronds to 5cm, then mulched the bed with compost (home-made – yippee!). Unsurprisingly, the cats made a bee-line for it and it wasn’t so neat the next day.

The asparagus bed, tucked in and put to bed for the winter.

I picked another load of raspberries (they are still going strong) and decided to freeze some so we can enjoy them in the depths of winter. I washed, dried and arranged them on a baking tray and carefully laid it the freezer. Once frozen, I tipped them in to a bag and put them back in to get lost underneath the unidentifiable bags of mince-based dishes. I know I should label them, especially as I’ve defrosted a bolognese and a chilli-con-carne together in one pan before now…

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The clocks go back tomorrow night (an extra hour in bed – bliss) and it’s half term next week. Is it me or does time seem to be speeding up? It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that it was the start of the autumn school term. Before we know it, it will be … No. I can’t mention ‘it’ yet. The children will be home in a couple of hours and I’ve a pile of ironing to do. I’m looking forward to slowing down later this evening and curling up by the wood-burner with a glass of something warming. Here’s wishing you a lovely relaxing weekend.

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It’s all going on

photo-50 After yesterday’s heavy rain, today was one of those high blue sky, vivid colour days. It’s not as warm as it was a couple of weeks ago, though – there’s been a chilly wind which has battered my lovely tall tulips and knocked some of the blossom off the cherry tree.

The wind has loosened some of the tallest tulips' petals but they're still looking gorgeous.
The wind has loosened some of the tallest tulips’ petals but they’re still looking gorgeous.

But wait… Guess what I found peeking out from the soil this afternoon? Only our first asparagus tip! SO exciting. I know we’ll have to wait a couple of years for our first proper crop but we have asparagus! Growing in our garden! I’ve so longed to have the space to grow these precious spears of loveliness and now we have. Brilliant.

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Look carefully. It’s definitely there. The first of hopefully many asparagus spears.

And that’s not all. The autumn raspberries are properly sprouting now and the strawberry crowns we planted two weeks ago are thoroughly romping away.

The strawberry plants have quadrupled in size since we planted them two weeks ago.

The pear tree is blossoming, as is the greengage and the three small cordoned apple trees. These were hidden underneath old, leggy lavenders and gooseberry bushes when we moved here. We freed them from their clutches and I gave them a fairly tough prune earlier this year. It’s good to see that they’re doing ok.

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The first bea-u-ti-ful apple blossom.

What else is looking good? Oh yes, the Erigeron karvinskianus is coming into flower on our front garden steps. This must be a pretty hardy plant as we had major groundworks for two new retaining walls either side of the steps last year and they were trashed. It’s lovely to see this perky little plant is thriving.

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Erigeron karvinskianus

I’ll say goodnight for now and sign off with a photo of my lovely rescue dog, Cassie, flaked out after this morning’s walk because that’s how I feel right now. Wishing you all a very happy bank holiday weekend. photo 2

Many hands

photo 1-1Reinforcements arrived last Wednesday in the form of my mother-in-law, who’s come to stay for a week. For someone in her mid-70s, she has immense energy and drive (she puts this down to her nurse training) and has been chivvying us along in the garden. She also has years of very welcome gardening experience and knows what will do well and where. I remember her reassuring visit after I came out of hospital with my first baby and it’s a similar feeling – she knows what to do!

Apart from a lovely family day out to Leeds Castle, where the children begrudgingly enjoyed themselves, and various trips to buy new shoes and sports kit (the boys, in particular, are growing almost as fast as the plants in the garden) we’ve spent a happy few days outside making good progress.

We cut poles from the hazel tree and made wigwams for the French beans. Asparagus has been planted –I think we may have taken too long to get them in the ground. They’d started to develop white fungal marks on the roots, so we cut these off… The crowns require delicate handling and we may have been a bit too heavy-handed!

French beans in situ with their hazel wigwams.
French beans in situ with their hazel wigwams. You can see the asparagus bed behind left, neatly tucked in under layers of compost.
I've left the tops on the hazel poles to see if they'll sprout into leaf.
I’ve left the tops on the hazel poles to see if they’ll sprout into leaf.

Several 1-tonne builders bags have been filled with weeds, hedge trimmings, ivy, etc and carted to the tip. We found an old cold-frame and have cleared a bed, spread out weed-suppressing mat and gravel to create an area for hardening-off our new plants. It’s a joy to come back from walking the dog, open the greenhouse door, take the lids of the propagators and see what’s grown. We’re making progress and it’s exciting.

Seedlings of Tithonia 'Torchlight' (foreground), which is great for bees, and an ornamental grass, Setaria, behind.
Seedlings of Tithonia ‘Torchlight’ (foreground), which is great for bees, and an ornamental grass, Setaria, behind.



A weekend’s work

The veg patch is slowly starting to look like a proper veg plot rather than a neglected, overgrown heap. After two full days of digging and weeding, raking and levelling, and putting in posts and supports, we finally planted our new bare-root raspberry canes as the light was rapidly fading yesterday.

There are six plants each of two varieties of autumn-fruiting raspberries – ‘Joan-J’ and ‘Autumn Bliss’. According to the books, autumn-fruiters don’t usually need supporting but as it gets very windy here, and ‘Autumn Bliss’ is a tall one, we thought we should give them a hand. The supports also mean we can throw over a net if birds start pinching the fruit later in the year.

Two neat rows of raspberry canes.
Two neat rows of raspberry canes. Not bad considering it was dusk (then dark) when they went in!


It was David who did the final planting as I took the opportunity to stand upright for a while and cook dinner (late again). The children are getting fed up with later and later mealtimes as we make the most of the longer days. I did point out that they could cook dinner themselves and that would actually be very helpful occasionally, thank you!

Calm sea and lovely light today.
Calm sea and lovely light today.

It’s a lovely, calm day today after yesterday’s gusty wind. I went for a quick stroll round the garden first thing. There is something new to see every day this time of year and you can almost hear the buds popping. The most pleasing sight this morning are the tulips. The flower heads are peeking out (happy, happy) and they should be in full bloom soon.

Hello tulips!
Hello tulips!

A not so happy sight was a tray of snapdragon seedlings in the greenhouse munched to stumps by a snail. I found the culprit nestled snuggly underneath. The ‘greenhouse-keeping’ has been a bit lax. Will have to check all the nooks and crannies for rogue snails today.

The asparagus crowns we ordered arrived in the post on Saturday. We’re behind with preparing their home (over-ambitious plans!) – they’ll need to go into a tray of damp compost somewhere light and cool to await their new bed. I discovered some ground elder where we want to put the asparagus, which is a bit of a blow, so there’s a lot more hand weeding to come today. Digging, sifting, trying to find every tiny bit of root. Curses! Having spent most of yesterday hunting and pulling out perennial weeds and roots, I’m not relishing the thought. Thank goodness there’s a yoga class this evening.