Hen and Hammock Fertilizer T Bag

hen and hammock

I was kindly sent a fertilizer T bag by Hen and Hammock to try.

The T bag is a natural hessian bag with nettles inside, to use it simply immerse in a water butt and leave it there (using the string and stick to make it easy to retrieve), or tie the string to the handle of a watering can to make a nitrogen-rich nettle feed for the garden or allotment to invigorate your plants or veg. Keep in place for 6 weeks in a water butt and change the T bag after about 4 weeks continuous use in a watering can. It works just like making a cup of tea, all the lovely goodness seeps out of the T bag and stays in the water.

hen and hammock

Another great thing is the T bag is biodegradable (including the packaging, except the staples), so after you’re done just throw it on your compost heap. It seems really simple to use and an alternative to making your own nettle tea, which of course is simple to do too.  I’ll certainly use my T bag on my allotment next year to see how it performs.

Hen and Hammock offer a choice of two fillings; a nitrogen T bag (nettle) great for flowering plants, shrubs and salad crops and a potash T bag (sheep manure) ideal for tomatoes, beans and root crops. They’d make perfect gifts for eco-friendly gardeners!

 

Royal Horticultural Society, RHS The Garden Anthology Book Release and Blog Giveaway

RHS the garden anthology book cover

I’m excited to reveal the following book release, published 2nd October 2014 by Frances Lincoln (www.franceslincoln.com | @Frances_Lincoln), priced £16.99. Read on to find out how you could WIN a copy!

RHS The Garden Anthology presents more than 100 years of the best writing in The Garden magazine, the respected journal of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Edited by Ursula Buchan, this collection features the work of 80 of the world’s most celebrated gardeners, from Gertrude Jekyll and E A Bowles in the early 20th century to the contemporary commentators James Wong, Nigel Slater, John Brookes and Tim Richardson.

This anthology paints a rich and intriguing picture of what gardening means today, revealing key moments in a time of intense change. The writers tell of plant-hunting and new gardening practises, fashion and growing food, whilst shedding light on the inner landscape of the thoughtful gardener.

From announcing the first news of Gregor Mendel’s experiments on genetics in 1900, to a report on the memorial garden at Ground Zero in Manhattan in 2011, Ursula Buchan selects the most important and atmospheric pieces to inspire, inform and sometimes amuse. This anthology provides the perfect literary companion for garden lovers and gardeners alike.

With thanks to Frances Lincoln publishers you could win a copy! To enter the book giveaway simply leave a comment on this post, one lucky reader will have their name drawn at random on Tuesday 14th October and I will contact the winner so please make sure you leave a valid email address with your comment.

The giveaway is open to UK residents only – sorry!

The giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who entered!

 

Hello Autumn

autumn footwear Summer has truly packed up and left today. It sure is chilly outside. Crispy leaves desperately clinging for dear life to trees blow around everywhere, sticking to wet windows. The rain hammered it down for hours. I love this time of year, the switch from summer to autumn really is spectacular. After the rain stopped I ventured outside to welcome autumn. Finally.

Shed Painting

shed paint

I painted the allotment shed today. I fancied a change of colour.

The new paint is called Mediterranean Glaze by Cuprinol, I’ve admired this colour for a long while now and got the exact shade I wanted mixed in-store for me at our local Homebase. I’m really happy with the result, it’s just how I pictured it in my head and my shed will be a fantastic backdrop against spring and summer flowers next year. My creative and design juices are flowing with colour combinations whirling around in my head, one plant I must have growing near the shed next year is Salvia, for slender spires of intense violet-blue flowers. I grow Salvia in old wooden wine crates topped with pea shingle at home, which looks fantastic on the patio.

The weather turned out lovely after a frosty start to the morning, last night was cold and typical of October weather, we’ve been a bit spoilt with unseasonably mild weather for so long.

aqua shed

My shed is now ready for autumn and winter with its bright aqua armour. Because my shed is blue underneath, it’ll look interesting when the paint starts to weather.

September Allotment Photos

allotment collage I’m coming out of my blogging hibernation, it’s been a while since I’ve visited the plot let alone post about it. And I’m feeling guilty. I trundled off to the allotment at the weekend to tackle a really difficult bed (we all have one area that’s the bane of our lives don’t we?). Brambles, bindweed, creeping buttercup and couch grass greeted me. Gah! My heart sank, but I got on with the job of clearing it of top growth and roots, digging over and topping with manure. It really helped to lift my spirits but I soon felt achy so decided to make the move home before my back give way completely. allotment flowers But before I left I took photos of the prettiest part of the plot, all the summer flowers are still in full swing including a lovely sunflower alongside tired ones. I did really well with the sunflowers this year, using seed a friend sent to me. butternut squash There’s plenty of butternut squash to harvest and little pumpkins, lovely big marrows (I grow them for the chickens mainly) and here’s my second year attempt at a giant pumpkin…. allotment pumpkin …..didn’t quite work but it’s the best size I’ve grown yet so I’m happy with that.

Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden Journal Book Review

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal

Our allotment drew lots of attention and admiration during the height of summer, the new cutting area dominated and stole the show with punchy colours of wildflower cornflower and Eschscholzia ‘Orange King’, purchased from Sarah Raven of whom I am a big fan. Other plot holders would stop me from working to compliment on the dazzling display of flowers and continuous hum of bees. As luck would have it, Frances Lincoln publishers contacted me to ask if I would like to review a copy of Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden Journal. I’m eager to extend my knowledge and confidence with our cut flower patch and having Sarah Raven’s journal to hand will be really useful, so of course I agreed to be sent a copy.

Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden Journal is compact and easy to carry, the front cover features Sarah Raven clutching a beautiful arrangement of flowers from her cutting garden. The journal takes you through the necessary steps to design and create the perfect cutting garden, with helpful monthly sections to include jobs for the month, flowers of the month and a monthly flower project. The journal provides detailed information on dates for sowing, planting advice, propagating, forcing and cutting.

Sarah’s arranging tips and techniques along with advice on equipment, conditioning and aftercare of your flowers will see you making your own arrangements in next to no time. There are step-by-step instructions with photos to help you create a mixed arrangement and wall hanging winter medallion, which is my personal favourite. The only nit pick I have with the journal is the style of photography used for the flower displays, it’s not to my taste but that’s just my opinion and in no way spoils the enjoyment or use of the journal.

Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden Journal will help to get the most out of your cut flower garden, creating a garden to offer plenty of interesting flowers and foliage throughout the year to create dazzling seasonal flower displays.

A hardback book and priced £14.99, I’m delighted to offer my readers the following discount:

To order Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden Journal at the discounted price of £11.99 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG200. 
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.
The journal officially releases on 4th September 2014 and is published by Frances Lincoln www.franceslincoln.com

About the author:

Sarah Raven is a writer, cook, broadcaster and teacher, running cooking, flower arranging and gardening courses from her farm in East Sussex.

Moody Broody

broody hen

One of our ex battery hens went broody about a month or so ago. Since then most of my time has been spent looking after a very moody hen, trying to ‘break’ her broodiness by removing her nesting material and locking her out of the coop to stop her from sitting (I failed, she sat in the dust bath trug instead, or, the floor would do), eventually searching for hatching eggs and then frantically driving a long distance to a friend for two-day old chicks.

At first, I didn’t think she’d actually bother to sit for long due to being selectively bred to never feel the urge to raise a brood. It was a surprise she’d gone broody in the first place and I didn’t think she’d see it through. But I was very wrong. She sat dedicated on an empty nest, turning invisible eggs and clucking. Seeing her like this I decided to allow her the right to raise chicks herself, I guess I’m a bit of a soft touch with this hen. I refused to carry out some of the usual tricks to break a broody hen, such as dunking her in cold water or putting her into a cage (the very thing that traumatised her), so I got her some eggs to hatch instead. Don’t get me wrong this was not an easy decision to make, hatching boys doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I’d never cull a chick for being male so I had to think very carefully about what I was going to do if she hatched cockerels. As cute as chicks are, hatching is not something I’ve yearned to do as a chicken keeper.

I found a great home for 2 cockerels and I was prepared to keep one if it came to it. The lady who I bought the eggs from offered to take any remaining boys if my hen hatched all males, with the absolute promise she wouldn’t cull. I had all bases covered and my conscience felt better, so I went ahead and placed the eggs under her, marking 21 days on a calendar. ‘Pumpkin’ is the type of broody that will not leave the nest herself, she wouldn’t defecate regularly or eat, drink or dust bathe. She’d just sit there in a trance, dreaming of becoming a mother. This left me with the job of looking after her health, hygiene and well-being closely, each morning I’d lift her off her nest (much to her disgust) and wait for her to poop, then I would hand feed her until she refused my tasty offerings. She wouldn’t drink either, so I fed her halved grapes and over ripe strawberries to prevent her from becoming dehydrated. I placed a little bowl of food and grapes right by her nest, sometimes she’d eat a little more and sometimes she wouldn’t, eyeing it suspiciously before pushing it away from her precious nest.

A week into sitting she accidentally broke an egg,  I cleared everything away for her and she continued to be a dedicated mum-to-be. Day 20 came and 2 eggs started to hatch, sadly both chicks didn’t make it, the hatching process went wrong and they died while still partially inside their shell. I guess Pumpkin didn’t move at all as the chicks struggled to free themselves, she sat very tightly. It was sad, what should have been a happy and exciting moment quickly turned to disaster. Pumpkin continued to sit but the 2 remaining eggs didn’t pip ( I tried to candle them but failed miserably, I guess I worried too much each time I removed an egg and my hands would shake so much each time Pumpkin screeched at me I was worried sick I’d drop them). I could smell sulphur (rotten egg) and the other egg just didn’t hatch at all. This left me with a huge problem, Pumpkin had been broody for over a month now and she was losing so much weight and condition, she wanted to be a mum, she’d seen this process through and was still sitting, waiting. I couldn’t possibly allow her to sit for a further 21 days on a new batch of eggs, I worried I’d end up with a dead hen and to be honest I was completely put off. There was only one thing to do, I’d have to get her some chicks to adopt.

chicks

I found out I could get some sex-link chicks from a friend who occasionally takes surplus chicks from a hatchery, these chicks were destined to end up in the very place their potential mother had been. I drove the long distance to collect these unwanted children for Pumpkin, and listened to the advice given very carefully. When I got home I made sure the chicks had food and water and a good rest under a heat lamp. I waited till it was very dark outside and took the babies to Pumpkin’s nest. I put the babies under her, removing the remaining eggs underneath as I did. No torch, no speaking, just a quick switch over and then walk away. This filled me with absolute dread, it was quite possibly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. If it went well it would solve a whole heap of problems, not just breaking my hen of her broodiness that would eventually make her very weak, but she could have company at last. Pumpkin is a traumatised hen from her time in the battery cages, described as one of the worst cases the rescue had ever seen. She screamed like a child for over a month, afraid of everything. Eventually she turned this fear into aggression and I’ve had a hell of a time trying to integrate her with other hens. She just wouldn’t accept any of them and was extremely aggressive to the point of being quite dangerous. The broodiness being an added problem to deal with.

I didn’t sleep much the night I put chicks under Pumpkin, I went out to her nest as soon as it as light enough to see. As I lifted the lid of her coop my heart was hammering, because of her temperament and unpredictability I was terrified I’d find dead or injured chicks. I was greeted by the sight and sounds of Pumpkin happily clucking, with four little heads poking through her feathers. What a huge relief! I spoke softly to her, telling her what a clever girl she was, as far as she was concerned she’d hatched those babies and they were hers. I placed some food and a drinker inside the coop, locked it back up and left them to bond further. I went back to bed for a couple of hours, I was exhausted!

hen and chicks

The chicks will be 2 weeks old this week, they’ve grown so much and Pumpkin is a brilliant mum. She adopted the chicks without any problems, and she’s calmer than ever. I’m hoping she’ll want to continue to live with her daughters once they’ve grown, they have plenty of space but I guess it’s just a waiting game to see how this works out.

Tea and Scones on the Allotment

rhubarb jam on scones

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) Awareness Week 12th – 18th May 2014

I was asked to take part in Tea and SCones for TSC blog tour, to raise awareness of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC), and of course I was delighted to help.

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex is a rare genetic condition that can cause epilepsy, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and renal problems; those affected may also have tumours on vital organs. There is currently no cure for TSC, so the Tuberous Sclerosis Association (TSA) is inviting the nation to host Tea and SCones for TSC parties to raise fund and awareness.

Over the weekend I had my very own tea and scones at the allotment, with rhubarb jam. The weather was a bit chilly and very windy but the tea soon warmed me up (I would’ve taken a photo of the allotment scenery but to be honest I didn’t think my weedy plot would be of interest!). I’m a little bit in love with the rhubarb jam I made so I thought I’d share the recipe on the blog, it’s a great way to enjoy rhubarb all year round. If you can manage to eat rhubarb without scrunching your face, then, and only then, will you love this jam. It’s seriously rhubarb(y) and definitely not for wimps.

rhubarb jam

Rhubarb Jam

(makes approximately 4-5 jars depending on size)

1 Kg Rhubarb (forced or unforced stems)

850 g Jam sugar

Cut the rhubarb stems into inch pieces, add sugar and rhubarb pieces in layers to a large pan, leave the pan overnight to allow the rhubarb juices and sugar to combine to make a syrup. The following day, bring the pan to a steady boil (stirring occasionally before boiling point). Boil for 6-7 minutes then test for setting point by using a sugar thermometer or wrinkle test on a chilled plate (place a small amount of jam on a chilled plate using a teaspoon, push the jam across the plate with your fingernail, if the jam wrinkles then your jam should set well). When setting point is reached remove pan from the heat and rest for a few minutes before pouring the jam into clean warm jars. Personally, I don’t add anything else because I’m a true rhubarb fan, but you could add ginger. If you’re a wimp.

If you’re interested in hosting your own Tea and Scones for TSC party to raise funds and awareness, visit tuberous-sclerosis.org.uk for more information, and share your photos and recipes with @UKTSA #TeaandSCones

Money raised from the tea parties will help the TSA support affected families and fund much-needed medical research. If you have time, please check out the following fab blogs, also taking part in the blog tour:

The Book Sniffer

Mammasaurus

Bake Good

Me and my Shadow (scheduled Friday 16th May)

 

 

Kitchen Garden Experts Book Review

Kitchen Garden Experts

Kitchen Garden Experts combines growing tips and delicious recipes by celebrated chefs and their head gardeners at twenty of the UK’s most exciting restaurants, hotels, pubs and cafés, making this a must have book for foodies and growers too. Published 1st May 2014 by Frances Lincoln, foreword by Raymond Blanc, author Cinead McTernan is a horticulturally trained writer and gardening editor of The Simple Things magazine. The book boasts beautiful and inspiring photography throughout by award-winning photographer Jason Ingram, who has worked on numerous garden and food magazines.

This insightful book throws open the gates to the kitchen gardens of Britain’s best chefs and their head gardeners, from Terence Conran and Raymond Blanc to River Cottage and L’Enclume. Each chef and gardener welcomes you to explore their beautiful kitchen gardens through Jason’s superb photographs, and to discover the growing tips and methods used to produce the fruit and vegetables appearing on their menus.

Photographer: Jason Ingram

Photographer: Jason Ingram

Tried and trusted kitchen garden secrets are revealed from each restaurant, to make growing your own just that little bit easier. Growing information for many varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs makes this a very useful book for gardeners, with access to 40 signature dishes and 20 mouth-watering recipes to delight the foodie in you. Try the recipes yourself at home or book a table at a featured restaurant to taste the flavour of fresh seasonal produce – made easy by the number coded regions and UK map at the beginning of the book and contact details at the back.

Raymond Blanc OBE is a chef at the forefront of the ‘gardening for taste’ revolution and has opened the kitchen garden at his restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, for many years.

Kitchen Garden Experts is a hardback book and priced £2o.00, I’m delighted to offer my readers the following discount:

To order Kitchen Garden Experts at the discounted price of £16.00 including p&p* (RRP: £20.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG130. 

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

 

 

Gertcha Rabbits!

allotment wire fence

Our allotment site is fenced with chicken wire to prevent rabbits from entering from the railway and fields beyond. As predicted, rabbits are finding ways to get in, along with deer. It was soon obvious that all the plots would benefit from being fenced too, around half of the plots are now protected but those that aren’t are having problems with crops being eaten, including ours.

blue allotment shed

Last year the little fuzzy butts ate all the carrot tops (then dug some of them, up scattering them everywhere), dug a whacking great hole in the potato bed and pooped all over the plot. This year, rabbits or deer munched garlic tops down to the stalks and damaged fruit bushes. I’m all for wildlife but enough is enough!

allotment photo

Last weekend Rich and I put a fence around our plot using chicken wire and wooden posts, stapling the wire onto the edges of the raised beds and paths to stop anything from digging under. I’ve visited our plot everyday this week and cannot see any further damage. We covered the garlic over with wire frames about a month ago and it’s recovering nicely now. The funny thing is, I thought I’d hate having a fence around the plot, in actual fact I quite like it. It makes the plot feel more like our little place, without losing the feel of community gardening or shutting our neighbours out. And our crops are a little bit harder to get at.

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