Green Garden Gate Waddesdon

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Veggie Plant Sale

This afternoon I held a little plant sale, I had been worried whether to hold it at all due to the weather forecast, but the day before I decided to go for it and advertised.

Thank you to those who popped by, a reminder; plant info is located here.

The sun showed it’s face for a while and in the end it didn’t rain! I sold a few plants, enough to pay for my allotment for the year anyhow!

I must say I rather enjoyed it, it was lovely that a friend popped over for a natter, plus in the downtime I had the chance to plant my beetroot seedlings and pot on my nasturtium.

There’s still quite a few plants leftover so I might see what the weather is like next weekend, maybe another sale will pay for some organic compost from Haddenham Garden Centre, any leftover can go in the allotment if not!

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Allotment dramas

Well. I added myself to the Parish allotment waiting list a while back, I understood there were people ahead of me so it could take a while. There’s a site that the National Trust manages in the village too – I think it’s part of the Waddesdon Manor Estate – so I added my name to that whilst I was at it.

Suffice to say, there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing due to a misunderstanding about where plot 12 actually was – turns out the plot shown to me might actually be half of plot 4 and plot 12 might be overgrown land that hadn’t been worked for at least 4 years and had brambles growing on it. During this confusion I had started growing plants in readiness to plant.

In the meantime whilst I’m waiting to hear back on what’s happening with the plot, I have spoken to the Clerk to see where I am on the council list (next in line!) and I heard a rumour in the gardening community that one of the allotment-holders might be handing his plot back rather than paying for another year (it’s the time of year for renewals)…. finally this evening I had a surprise call to say I was all good to sign up, and that the last person would be leaving me a shed etc. very exciting news!

Well of course I had to nip over to the plot straight away to check it out! There were slightly raised beds (with winter weeds and some manure), a couple of compost heaps, a couple of rhubarb plants and a water-butt – allotment heaven! As soon as my agreement arrives tomorrow I’m signing up, in the meantime I can get digging on it in the morning!

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April showers

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There’s been a few sunny days with lots of April showers recently, which I guess is only to be expected!

Here are a few things happening in the garden currently:

I’ve had a couple of dramas trying to get an allotment, which I shall mention in another post, but suffice to say the plants I have been getting ready to go on the plot are pretty much ready and I have no plot to put them on!

I’m thinking of having a plant sale to sell my excess plants but I’m not sure what the weather will be doing from one day to the next so it’s difficult to organise. Although I might just have a couple over a few Sundays and advertise locally. I’ve also been toying with the idea of setting up my own garden services business. Watch this space!

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French Pink Garlic

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Garlic being planted at the front of the bed

A little sunshine today warranted digging in compost to the beds and planting the pink French garlic. As I understand it, these cloves will be a deterrent to cats (and any mice that might be in the vicinity) and a few spare cloves in the greenhouse given a squeeze now and then should deter white fly. Three huge bulbs managed to supply 45 cloves, the fattest of which I’ve planted for growing in the veggie beds, the smaller ones in the flower beds to try to deter cats, if good garlic comes of this, ah well! There’s some more to be planted, but they can wait a while until the next bed is ready to start being filled.

I’ve had to plant them at the front of the beds as they shouldn’t be grown too close to peas and beans as they stunt their growth. Peas and beans will eventually be grown up the fences on these beds, with outdoor variety tomatoes hung from the fence posts. The garlic is however good for a lot of the other plants I am growing, as would several of the herbs I am growing.

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overnight cat poo prevention

More cat protection was required as previous efforts were ineffective, we have very acrobatic cats in Waddesdon! Hopefully the above will mean I no longer have to dig carefully.

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Boris

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Obviously not a gardening post, but there is a tenuous link in that there are microflora and microfauna involved… and it grows… and needs feeding and watering. Plus there’s a permaculture/sustainable living angle here!

I’ve been growing my own sourdough bread starter culture since the bad storms hitting the UK started last year, the night our neighbours’ fences suffered. The first part of the recipe asked for the bread to be left outside for an hour or so. Hence it’s original reference as Waddesdon Storm bread. Over time the name Boris stuck, I’ve no real idea why.

He started off in a 2l Kilner jar but he did like to escape occasionally, now Boris resides in a 3l Kilner jar in the cupboard (although he camps in the fridge if we go away). I’ve made a multitude of types of bread from pizza bases to focaccia to seeded batch to farmhouse split tin to rye bread and more. I have to say it is rather tasty!

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I first ate sourdough bread that my Nanna made years ago and would often help her, thinking back, she used a sour milk or buttermilk as her starter, but I went a bit more traditional with my starter, it’s literally just flour and water, using time and natural yeasts and lactobacilli from the air. I used stoneground rye flour in the first mix but over time any regular bread flour will do. It’s great fun to play with the different ratios of flours and flavourings for different results.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading up since last year. Playing with the water levels, or the temperature you store the starter at, or even the interval in between feeds all affect the equilibrium of the bacteria and yeast and therefore the rise and taste.

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Apparently sourdough bread is healthier than that made using commercial baker’s yeast, it’s easier to digest, more nutritious and I have to say there is a depth of flavour that rivals the farmers markets artisan breads I’ve paid a lot of money for in the past. There’s the added bonus that I can make two large loaves from a 1.5kg bag of good quality bread flour (starting at 80p) so the price of a loaf starts at 40p, but more if you use organic flour. If you can find a local flour supplier rather than a supermarket do go for it, it’ll cost more, but no-where near as much as an off the shelf loaf would.

As much as a bread machine may be handy and even Cameron uses one, they’re very expensive and take all the fun out of it, they stop you getting to know your dough and the result just isn’t in the same league anyway. Sourdough isn’t suited to a bread machine so don’t risk it. It takes a lot longer to make a sourdough bread loaf, but it’s not harder, and you don’t knead it any longer than making regular bread, you just have to plan ahead.

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There’s many recipes to get you started out there, I found a Jamie Oliver one that worked for me as a starting point, there’s even one currently printed on the back of a certain brand’s bag of bread flour. Have a play, try out different techniques – have fun with your food!

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Installing a basic greenhouse

Today the weather has held, no rain as yet tho it is a little overcast. Just to update the interested, the poo prevention measures failed in part, despite the obstacle course the local felines decided I had installed a brand spanking new facility just for them. A redesign is in order. The wind isn’t too strong so this morning’s task was to build a mini-greenhouse (check out local QD, Wilkinson stores). I’d considered various options for growing tomatoes, cucumber and peppers as well as seedlings in general from a dedicated mini tomato house (£5-£8) it was small and held about 2 plants. There was another contender with staging on the left and tomato area on the right at £25 but in the end went with a mini greenhouse at £30 giving the most options during the growing season.

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building in progress

Bearing in mind the bargain price the build wasn’t without its issues; one of the plastic connectors split but nothing a bit of gaffer tape couldn’t solve.

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gaffer tape is wonderful stuff

There was also an issue with the ‘shelves’ not actually fitting where they should, so cable ties sorted that one out!

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Getting the cover over the top is fun when there is a slight breeze, don’t attempt in winds stronger than this unless you have an extra pair of hands. The end result isn’t too bad, tho I won’t add anything to it until it’s been wind tested overnight. There’s a couple of bricks on the base section and I’ll be lashing it to the wall with paracord shortly, those who’ve spent time with me in Borneo will know how useful this stuff is.

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Getting started with seeds

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River Thame bursting it’s usually steep banks. Car is driving through water over bridge

We’ve had unprecedented amounts of rain in recent months and so planning to start off the gardening year has been a little problematic.  The ground may be too wet or more rain may cause germination problems. Soil preparation hasn’t really been possible. The growing season has already started, the weeds were looking really healthy and the snowdrops & daffodil are out in force.

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Snowdrops

In the last week I decided to prepare for a nice day so invested in a propagator and bought fresh seeds and seed potatoes and shopped for the required paraphernalia.  I thought I’d try to germinate some coriander seeds I had laying around in the kitchen (you never know), these have been in for about a week now (nothing happening yet!). My herb seeds have been sown in terracotta pots ready to be placed outside the kitchen door, although it’s too cold for the seedlings right now they are being germinated indoors. For info; Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, Spearmint, Nasturtium, Sweet Marjoram, Thyme, Sweet Genovese Basil, Plain leaved Parsley and Giant Italian Parsley.

Finally, with a whole weekend of rain forecasted (and camping plans cancelled), I awoke 7am this morning to beautiful sunshine and lots of blue sky!  Needless to say the wellies were on and the fork and spade were on duty digging and weeding all the veggie beds in the garden. I don’t know what the soil in your garden is like but I have grown up gardening on clay soil so I expected this to be very heavy going. Surprisingly the soil was easy enough to deal with here in Waddesdon, also a little help does come in handy!  The lawn is still a little soggy tho.

Digging completed, random gladioli bulbs and a foxglove rescued for other beds, chitted seed potatoes untangled from the netting and I quickly realise I need twice the space I’d planned for the potatoes – ah well!  Potatoes in (Aaron first early’s) and a quick glance over the shoulder at a few clouds later I decide there is still plenty of time to get going on sowing some of the earlier seeds outdoors.

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Sowing wild primrose

Armed with those ‘Compostapots’ (the biodegradable pots that allow you to either remove for planting or just plant intact), my organic compost and some Rootgrow (first time trying this stuff – some friendly fungus that aids a growing root system organically), I get sowing catnep (have you ever used this in tea or as a seasoning?), mallow, wild primrose (great in salads) and broad bean (bunyard’s exhibition) and labelling them up. Adding the Rootgrow layer makes the process twice as long but I’m sure the healthy root growth will lead to more abundant tasty veggies!

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Poo prevention

These were all placed under a 3 metre length cloche in situ, which also served as cat poo prevention on the recently dug beds. Other poo prevention measures included garden canes criss-crossed over the potatoes and an old green gate laid over an empty bed. We seem to get the cons of cats without the benefit of ownership!

Tomato (maskotka), cucumber (bush champion) were sown in the propagator and slotted onto the kitchen windowsill.  The coriander was kicked out under the cloche so as to make room. We decided the bed viewed from the kitchen would be flowers, so the rescued foxglove took centre stage:

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Foxglove

Starting to get a little chilled and with the promise of a cup of tea I decided to call it a day, everything tidied away to what I am assured is not called the potting shed as it’s for specific man things. Whilst in town another propagator was acquired as was a mini greenhouse – lots to do tomorrow if the weather holds!

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