Vegetable Garden

What’s Growing On In February?

Biting winds, rain, hail and snow showers, we’ve never been so thankful for the occasional glimpse of sunshine to provide some respite. Ooh naughty February! Welcome back to our monthly catch up posts where we show you what’s growing on in our garden smallholding.

The vegetable garden in February still offers fabulous things to eat thanks to a bit of careful planning. By dedicating a whole bed to carrots rather than just a couple of rows for late summer/autumn use, we’re still pulling tasty roots of ‘Autumn King’. Standing well in our soil our garden tends to get rather boggy in winter so this variety really is worth growing. The same can be said for ‘Gladiator’ parsnip, fantastic roots right through to spring.

Another great crop providing nutritious leaves from summer right through to winter is kale. ‘Nero Di Toscana’ will grow in difficult conditions such as a shady spot and poor drainage (trust us, we know!). The flavour improves after a frost and once it finally bolts the flowers can be eaten too.

We’ve just finished picking the last of the Brussels Sprouts and now we’re patiently waiting for spears of beautiful early sprouting broccoli to make an appearance. Early purple sprouting is sown late spring one year and produces from February/March the following year – so you really do need to be patient!

The veg garden in February

Autumn-fruiting raspberry canes got their annual chop this week. Rich carefully tidied around to remove the old leaves and debris being careful not to damage emerging canes, finishing up with a mulch of compost afterwards.

The canes are very spiky – gloves are needed! In just a couple of months the whole bed will be brimming with fresh new growth.

Rather than burning or composting we’ve decided to keep the cut raspberry canes and use them as organic slug and snail deterrents (due to the spikes), laying them on the ground in and around seedlings.

Something has had a go at the broad bean seedlings underneath the cloche tunnels (unlikely to be a pigeon, a mouse perhaps?), a bit of soil disturbance and a couple of seedlings vanished – one is wilting so I guess the seed bean is damaged. This is the first place we’re going to use the canes. I wonder if mice will be that bothered by a few spikes? It’s an experiment so we’ll let you know if it works.

Our chickens were beginning to lay regularly (except for Mrs Broody pants), a couple have now decided to have another moult which means no eggs.

Some of our girls are getting on for retirement, perhaps nearer summer we’ll increase the flock seeing as we have a new coop!


Vegetable Garden

And Sow it Begins

I came home from hospital last weekend, my body is tired and sore but getting a little stronger every day. I ended up needing more surgery than expected which has set my recovery back with one thing or another but I am getting there, slowly. I miss spending time with the chickens and of course the day-to-day activities in the garden smallholding, family are mucking in and doing what’s needed. I long for the day I can join in rather than watch from the window but I’m not to lift anything heavier than a cup of tea for at least 6 weeks. Meh.

I guess I can cope with the tea bit.

After going through our seed stash last month we’ve ordered what we need for the new growing year with some new varieties to try, the rest will be our own saved seed. We will buy our seed potatoes very soon and set them out to chit in egg boxes.

We like to sow our tomatoes and chillies early, harvesting can begin as early as June/July depending on varieties grown. Chillies need constant heat to aid germinate so we’re using a seedling heat mat at the moment to help. We’ve never used anything like this before when germinating seeds such as chillies and peppers, we usually get decent germination results by using the warmest spots in the house but it can take up to a month to occur due to temperatures dipping at night. It’s a bit of a trial so we’ll let you know how the heat mat performs in terms of germination rate/time, and if we like it enough to recommend we’ll do a little blog post. Rich set everything up for sowing our seeds to avoid me lifting anything, all I had to do is pop the seeds in. It felt so good to be involved and gave me the lift I needed.

It’s official, gardening is therapy!


Happy New Year 2018

This year has been a tricky year for me with regards to my health. As some of you are already aware I had surgery in June which meant I couldn’t spend much time at all in my beloved vegetable garden during the best part of summer. The garden and blog were neglected and so the best part of autumn has been spent getting the veg beds and paths under control –  which we managed to do before all the heavy snow arrived!
I’m scheduled for major surgery in a few weeks time but I plan to be fighting fit and back on my feet in the greenhouse sowing the first seeds of spring as soon as I can (I might be a little late with it all depending on how I feel but everything catches up eventually!). I look forward to reading blogs and watching YouTube channels to see what you’ve all been up to in your gardens, allotments and smallholdings as I recover.
As this year comes to a close I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for following our small but precious backyard farm / garden smallholding journey, not just on the blog but via social media too. I wish you all a happy 2018 and a great growing year ahead.
 All the very best, Karen x

Happy New Year 2017

garden collage

Wishing you a New Year that’s bursting with joy! I hope the new growing year ahead provides your larder and kitchen with plenty of own-grown produce.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2017, may all your wishes come true!

Vegetable Garden

A Stormy End to 2015

So much rain. And gales. Storm after storm.

Although our garden is an absolute soggy mess, we’re the lucky ones, our home is dry and our animals are safe. We enjoyed Christmas without the worry of the weather outside our windows. Despite the many storms, temperatures are mild throwing nature into disarray. The wildlife ponds here are still heavily populated with frogs, usually they’re nowhere to be seen until February or March. I wonder if we’ll see some super early spawn? Daffodils are reportedly in flower across some counties which is crazy for December, butterflies are on the wing during dry days and bumblebees buzz angrily across the garden, looking just as confused as I am.

garlic growing
Garlic pushing up through the soil in the winter vegetable garden, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and stir the excitement of the growing year ahead. Even if the weather is awful, garlic rarely disappoints. A great crop to grow during the dreary months.

However, the vegetable garden offers the promise of food, which is always something to smile about. The first crops to make an appearance in our new vegetable garden are garlic and broad beans, constant mild temperatures ensured a successful germination ratio with the broad bean seed, just two seeds failed which is good going for me. I don’t hold a trophy for overwintering the humble broad bean.

If our broad beans make it through storm ‘Frank’ without drowning (he’s howling furiously and tipping HEAPS of rain down as I type this blog post) and the coming months too, after sowing another batch in spring we’ll be rich in beans. Rich I tell thee!

During a recent trip to a garden centre to buy a family birthday card (I know, odd choice but they do offer a great selection of cards and I couldn’t face the ‘sale crowds’ in the usual well-known card stores!) I spotted the net bags of early seed potatoes, the very thought of plunging the dear little things into our soggy garden made my top lip curl, so I passed on by, empty-handed.

light sussex pullet

I should mention the chickens seeing as the weather is so poor. They’re all doing well, even the oldies. Thankfully they’re tucked up warm and dry in their roofed enclosures although I think they’d prefer to be drinking from a muddy puddle, or pecking at the broad beans. On good days they roam, stormy days they’re in. I can’t risk them being blown over to the neighbours gardens. Just one hen going through a heavy moult at the moment, but she’s feathering up quickly rather than dragging it on, as some do. We’re collecting 4 or 5 eggs a day which is plenty for our needs, the pullets laying most days.

Well, I hope you had a great Christmas dear reader. The blog has been a bit quiet through most of this year I know, but the new vegetable garden is at last a real thing rather than a sketch on paper. I can’t wait to properly get my fingers in the soil and grow some lovely fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers for the pollinators.

Heartfelt sympathy to those dealing with flooding. Stay safe and Happy New Year xx



Wordless Wednesday

apple tree garden hen ex battery hen eggs in a wicker basket hens in a garden light sussex veg patchImages from our garden smallholding.



Chickens, Fruit Garden, Harvest

August in the Garden Smallholding

August is the time to reap the rewards, a time when the garden really starts to give back what you so carefully and lovingly put into it, providing regular harvests of fresh fruit and veg, packed full of flavour. An array of crops are ready for harvest this month including sweet corn, golden-yellow cobs bursting with sweetness, a flavour so intense to rival any shop bought produce. Pick them and enjoy straight away, I guarantee you will always find the space to grow them year after year.

The fruit garden will spoil you for choice now too, jams, jellies and chutney are just crying out to be made, a great way to use up a glut of vegetables. Add apples or plums to chopped vegetables and make tasty combinations, a reminder for months to come of the wonderful produce your garden/allotment provided. August is a good month to plant a new strawberry patch using well-rooted runners, a great way to gain more strawberries for free. Perpetual strawberries will extend the picking season until the first frosts, sadly they don’t produce runners freely but it’s well worth buying plants to keep you picking strawberries much longer than usual. Autumn fruiting raspberries are kicking in now, big dark red (almost plum colour) berries are a welcome treat. The summer raspberries are still producing but are noticeably coming to an end.

The temperature has dropped quite a bit recently with a distinct autumn ‘nip’ to the air, leaves are beginning to fall from trees that have taken on a rusty autumn appearance already. I certainly think autumn is creeping up on us faster than usual. Even though I’m enjoying late summer flowers, the occasional warm day and mouth-watering fresh food, now is the time that I start to think about what I can plant or sow for the coming months ahead. Garlic can be planted out from October through to winter as long as the ground is workable, as well as autumn peas (under cloches) and broad beans. I’ve decided to sow Meteor, an autumn variety of pea in the greenhouse from October time, field mice are plenty here due to being surrounded by farmland – my peas don’t really stand a chance otherwise.

Our hens have been laying well considering they are quite old, well, in ex battery terms they are, we’ve had a steady supply of lovely eggs since early spring. Each morning for the past week the floor of the coops have been littered with feathers, a sign that moult has begun and laying will decline soon. Poultry spice added daily to the mash or pellet feed is really useful at this time of year, it helps birds get through the moult and gives them a bit of a boost during cold weather.

Don’t forget natures free kitchen cupboard, elderberries are ripe now and can be used for jelly and jam making, we’re lucky to have a free supply growing wild as well as uncultivated blackberries. Enjoy your August garden!

Fruit Garden, Uncategorized

Our Very First Baby Pears

I’m so excited! Our new William’s Bon Chrétien pear tree has baby pears, aren’t they amazing? You can really see the shape formation already. I adore pears and cannot wait to sample our very own home-grown ones which should be ready to pick by September, ripening a week or so later. It’s self fertile but pollination by another pear will maximise yield, the neighbouring garden to the rear of ours has a mixed orchard on half an acre so hopefully this will help.

Vegetable Garden

A Sunny Day of Sowing

It’s amazing how a sunny day sowing seeds can lift your spirit. I have been feeling very low since losing Lizzie on Saturday so I dragged myself outside armed with seed packets yesterday and got sowing.

I planted up a bed with a few rows of Nantes and Thompson & Morgan Purple Haze carrots, (first time of growing the purple type so I’m looking forward to pulling these) Gladiator parsnips, swede and Solist beets. I have left a large area for the Musselburgh leek seedlings, they are growing well and nearly the width of a pencil so they can go into their final position towards end of the month.

Swede are a first for me too, I’m trying to plan the winter and early spring season a little better this year, rather than being left with empty beds once November sets in. I also sowed some sweetcorn (rather late for me) and some purple sprouting broccoli which I will hopefully be picking next March – if I toughen up with the butterflies!

Harvest, Vegetable Garden

One Potato, Two Potato…

Charlotte Salad Potatoes

We harvested some Charlotte potatoes on Friday, our first potato harvest of the year and wow they were scrummy! We harvested two plants which produced more than enough potatoes to feed a hungry family of four, with some to spare too. This was our first time growing salad potatoes and they have definately earned their plot for next year.

Charlotte Potatoes 2009

The main crop are flowering away nicely, although they got a bit battered and bruised by recent strong winds but they seem to be holding their own. Which varieties are you growing and do you have any favourites? I have been making plenty of potato salad with the Charlotte’s, look out for the simple Karen proof recipe coming soon!

Harvest, Vegetable Garden

First Harvest

radish harvest

Here it is, our very first harvest of the year, well, from seed anyway if you don’t count rhubarb which we have coming out of our ears. Not literally but you know what I mean! Yes its those fab little radishes all grown up, willing and waiting to be devoured. I’m sowing them like crazy now to keep up with the family’s demand!

Vegetable Garden

Radish – What a Fab Little Veg


This is the first year that we have grown radishes, they will not be left off our list again. What a useful little crop they have proved to be. They grow amazingly fast so you can sow them between rows of slow growing crops, making the best use of the available space. We are about to harvest our first sowing of globe radish already.

Sow them every 2 weeks or so to ensure a succession of crops rather than all at once. They really do grow so fast that too many at once could be easily wasted. Which varieties do you like to grow?

Vegetable Garden

Growing Our Own

veg beds

I’m so pleased with our vegetable garden now, particular because it was such hard graft to get anything growing in the first place. The whole plot was a jungle only a few months ago, you could barely access any of it let alone dig it. All the hard work has paid off and now we have vegetables happily growing away. So what have we been growing and sowing so far?

Sweet corn, Pentland Crown main crop potatoes, Charlotte salad potatoes, two varieties of broad bean (tall & dwarf) mange tout pea, red & white onions, garlic, runner beans,  courgette, Brussel sprouts, parsnips, main crop carrots, butterhead and cut & come again lettuce, radish, beets, rhubarb, tomatoes, cauliflower and we some chillies growing inside. We grew tried growing chillies last year and had reasonable success with them, although the chillies refused to go red on the plants. This is all a big step up from what we grew last year, we still have a lot to learn with regards to vegetable growing but so far so good.

The foundations that we discovered a while ago have now all been removed and soil replaced to fill in the trenches that were left. We have been left with a perfect brown rectangle in the lawn, a sprinkle of grass seed will soon put that right. The Marjorie’s Seedling plum has recently been planted into its final position but we need to wait a little longer before planting our apple trees. We are having a new fence erected at the end of the garden as well as having the soil leveled with mini digger. We did manage to level off half of it by hand but the job proved too time consuming and back breaking that we felt that we needed a bit of machine power. And a well earned rest! This should all be happening middle of next month, then we can think about planting our apple trees finally and perhaps getting another fruit tree, perhaps a pear.