Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Next year?

It's likely that next year I will live in a house without a garden OR a balcony. Yes, really! I will be reading all of your gardening blogs next summer and feeling very jealous. I will do what I can on a windowsill, but I doubt it will be very much. I will have a garden one day though, so here is my dream garden/vegetable patch for whenever we get a house and garden of our own.

Raspberries - I LOVE raspberries, I would like to have a whole row of raspberry canes so that I can grow more raspberries than I know what to do with.

Peas and beans - these were really easy to grow so I definitely want to grow them again. I'd like to make a pretty structure out of canes for them to grow on. And at ground level I should finally get some bees!

Sweetpea - I was very jealous of other bloggers this year who had a supply of sweetpea flowers to bring into their houses. I'd like to dot sweetpeas among my vegetables.

Lettuce - I would like to have a patch for lettuce where I can plant all my favourite varieties (I like delicate leaves and I really want to try some rainbow chard) and never have to pay supermarket prices again.

Apple tree - I would love a fruit tree of some sort. I know they take ages to grow but it will be worth it.

Lemon tree - as above. Imagine being able to pick your own lemons!

Herbs - I would love some big herb pots so that whatever I am cooking I can pop out with the scissors and get some fresh herbs to go with it. I'll keep growing heartsease too so that I can add the petals into salads.

Lavender - I've got lavender this year but it has been a bit sad as it hasn't had any bees visiting it, which is sort of the point of lavender. Also bee populations are struggling so we should help them out as much as we can.

Chillies - if I've got a sunny indoor spot I will definitely grow chillies again, they were great. I also think I am becoming slightly more tolerant to spicy things. Slightly!

Carrots - you can't beat the taste of home grown carrots. I didn't grow them this year as it's not too easy on a balcony but when I have actual ground, I will.

So that's my dream garden....I hope it will come true some day!

Monday, 14 November 2011

My other love


Over the winter while my balcony is covered in frost and (hopefully) snow, I won't have much gardening news to post on this blog. I've started another blog about crafting, and I promise that I am much better at crafting than I am at gardening. Already you can peruse a sample of my projects from the last month - cards, sewing & baking and there's plenty more excitement in the pipeline.

It would mean a lot to me if you would follow me in my new adventure.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Favourite photos of 2011

Realising how beautiful chilli flowers are

How my pea plants climbed the netting

Sunny days

Finding heartsease and lemonbalm plants

Very happy chilli plants

The bumper crop of tomatoes

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Crazy tomatoes

I picked the last of my tomatoes yesterday before cutting them down and look what I found:


There was also this little branch growing from the base - only a few months too late! I couldn't bring myself to chop it down though.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

2011 roundup

Well my first summer as a gardener has just about come to a close. It feel like a long time ago that I started, back in April, on my little balcony adventure. Now's the time to ask....what have I learned? Here's my roundup.

Strawberries - total rubbish, despite having an awesome pot to plant them in. First I discovered that they don't fruit in the first year, then they got powdery mildew. One is still alive though, despite me never watering it, STILL being covered in mildew and the leaves constantly dying so that's quite amazing. However, I think I will stick to pick your own next year.

Lettuce - absolute winner. So much cheaper than in the shops and you get loads. I need to remember to plant at intervals though as I either had too much or none all summer.

Beans - I had 3 healthy plants but they didn't produce many beans which I think is because we don't have many bees up here. Then I overwatered them and they died :(

Peas - possibly my favourite of all the plant I grew this year. Beautful flowers, a big crop and gorgeous tasting peas, but then I overwatered them and they died  :( Yes, there's a theme - lesson well and truly learned.

Tomatoes - I think I am most proud of these. I definitely enjoyed watching them grow the most - it's incredible that you get such a big plant and so much produce from a tiny seed. We had a lots of fruit which was great, it tasted ok, not as sweet as I had hoped, and they got blight near the end. Going to try cherry tomatoes next year.

Chillies - in my opinion, the easiest plant and the best crop for the least effort. I'm lucky to have a large sunny windowsill where these were really happy. We had so many chillies from these, we've frozen them and they should last for ages.

Spring onions - a definite yes. Just plant, water, wait - you can grow loads in a small space and they don't care if you under/over water them (much) and don't get diseases - my kind of plant.

It's been a lovely summer and it's not over yet - I still have some yellow peppers and mini chillies on the way in the kitchen. Plus I'm going to try to keep things going during the winter on our windowsills. Now to clean out grow bags and dead plants from the balcony - fun!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Views of Autumn

Leaves to crunch underfoot

Sloe berries hanging above me

Holly with berries - the sign of a harsh winter on the way

Chestnuts waiting to be collected

Saturday, 15 October 2011


Don't read this post if you're eating your dinner.

I've got serious bugs on my spring onions!


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sloe Gin

October is the perfect time to make sloe gin. The best time to pick the berries is after the first frost, but you want to leave enough time for it to mature by Christmas, so I'm doing it now.

You will need:
Half a bottle of gin (British, of course)
Lots of sloe berries
100g caster sugar

I am lucky to have a lot of sloe berries growing near my house. The best place to find them is in hedgerows out on country walks in the autumn. You might also be able to find them at farmer's markets.

Wash the berries and prick them with a cocktail stick so that they can infuse with the gin. This is the laborious part of the process and the real reason why they call it sloe gin. Fill up most of the bottle and pour in the sugar and shake well. You'll need to shake the bottle once a day for a couple of weeks, and then once a week until Christmas.

In late December, strain the liquid into another bottle (or back into the cleaned bottle) and enjoy with ice or in cocktails on snowy nights.

You can use sloe gin in a G&T, or alternatively a great cocktail is a sloe gin royale. Use 25ml sloe gin, 75ml champagne and decorate with a raspberry or such like. Cheers!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Plant Kit Update

Remeber back in June my friend bought me a sunflower and a chilli plant kit? Here's an update on how they are getting on.


They are so happy! I either have a knack for chillies or they are super easy to grow. Probably the latter.

You can even see the little chillies starting to grow. I'm so pleased with these.


I'm so embarrased about these :/ They didn't survive a weekend we spent away at a festival and have been looking rather grey and ill since then. I hoped they might come back to life but they're getting worse. 

Luckily I didn't plant all the seeds in the kit so I have a second chance to redeem myself.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Zombie beans

My beans have risen from the dead! Lucky I didn't clear them out yet!

Sunday, 11 September 2011


My chutney came about because
a) my tomato plants aren't very well & I had a lot of red fruit to rescue
b) I want to make most of my xmas presents this year
c) I love making things
d) anything is better than revision on a Saturday morning.

Here I am all ready to go. I had about 900g of tomatoes here, a little short of the recipe but who's counting?

A LOT of peeling, chopping and weighing later:

Two hours on, one cut left thumb and a few burns from hot sterilised jars:

Totally worth the effort in the end - it tasted great and it still has a few months to mature. I'll get some ribbon and labels to decorate these nearer the time. A good morning's work and the perfect way to use up my tomatoes.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

It was all going so well...

Blight [noun]
1. any cause of impairment, destruction, ruin or frustration
2. (in plant pathology) the rapid and extensive discolouration, wilting and death of plant tissues
Yes it's finally happened....I thought I was holding it back but the wet weather the last few days seems to have done it's worst. I went out yesterday to find lots of unappetising tomatoes:
I can't get this photo to go the right way up, sorry!
I definitely agree with the description that this is rapid. There wasn't any sign of it 3 days ago except on the leaves. It is mainly just this branch at the moment so I have thrown these away, but it can only be a matter of time for the rest. The plan is to save what I can, use the red ones to make chutney and try to ripen the green ones indoors. Ah well, this is what comes of living in a country with changeable weather and not having a greenhouse. I've done pretty well with these so far so I am not too upset - we have already had quite a lot of tomatoes from these plants this year. I feel lucky that it didn't happen a month ago.
I've found a lovely chutney recipe on BBC Good Food, autumn tomato chutney. I'm going to try to make this at the weekend if I can pick up some jars from Hobbycraft.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The story so far (month 4)

Gosh it's been a while hasn't it. Hello! No excuses really, just life getting in the way!

Let's start with the good stuff. Look at my tomatoes. They are producing so many red fruits now it's just brilliant. I attempted to make some sun dried tomatoes but I had the oven on too high so they were more sunburned, but they were still tasty. Next up is to attempt some chutney. I had a bit of a panic that I had blight - some of the leaves are definitely going mouldy. I googled it and came up with the rather random cure of spraying the leaves with milk diluted with water. It does seem to have worked - it's still going strong at least.

Also my spring onions are getting big! I think the two I planted earlier might be ready but I'm not really sure how to tell. I think I will try one this weekend and see. That's exciting :)

There's been a bit of colour the last 2 weeks as my mint is flowering. I've never seen mint flower - it's beautiful.

My chives flowered again too - I went to cut off the dead heads and look, lots of seeds! I don't think I will plant more chives but I collected the seeds anyway, it felt like I was getting something for nothing!

The only thing that has not been going so well is the beans. I think I have definitely been overwatering them and they have gone yellow and mouldy, which is a shame. I'd given up on them, I haven't watered them for two weeks but yesterday I spotted something wonderful, a few new flowers! I don't know if it will come to anything but I have definitely learned to go easy on the watering.

I also found this - I thought it was a mouldy bean but it was dried out. Look what was inside - lovely purple beans!! I'll keep these for next year.

I hope all your veg patches are treating you well.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Harvest time

Isn't it amazing when all the effort that you have put into something finally pays off. All of the nurturing, pruning and the watering is all worthwhile when you get this.

Isn't it great! I've just noticed the rather large scary knife in the corner of that photo...you can guess the fate of the tomato a few minutes after this!

It was closely followed by this...

And then this!!

It's been so great seeing some proper harvests come into the kitchen. We have frozen most of the chillies and eaten the tomatoes. There are plenty more ripening though so I plan to make some sun dried tomatoes with the next lot. Well, oven dried - this is England.

This is what it's all about - popping out onto the balcony on a sunny evening to pick some bits to go with tonight's dinner.

I hope everyone else is enjoying some nice homegrown additions to their meals at the moment!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

In the red

I have something exciting to share :)

I think you might call this shade "a hint of a tint"!

But check this out, this happened over 2 days this week and the others have started going now too...

2 anaheim chillies and one jalapeno....what a beautiful shade of red! Something for the tomatoes to aspire to!

Thursday, 4 August 2011


I know you aren't supposed to laugh at your own jokes but that's a good 'un!

It's a sad day on the balcony as I have just hacked down my pea plants :( I loved my peas - they came from Poundland and they were so easy to grow and to look after. Look how they started - this was only 2 months ago.

I had absolutly no problems germinating them and they grew so quickly.

They had such beautiful flowers.

Best of all they are self pollinators, so they didn't suffer with my bee shortage.

They were the most productive thing I've grown so far, and so tasty.

It's a sad end!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The story so far (month 3)

Hello bloggers. I've been away so much this month, it's all a bit quiet from me. Here's a little round-up of what's been going on.

There's been a little harvest! Unfortunately I think that any harvests I will have will be little. My peas have been producing the most output of anything here, but still not that much. One of my bean plants has not produced any beans yet. Loads of flowers but no beans. Boo.

Look at these little beauties! They are so sweet and tasty. I love them!

However, all is not well on the balcony. Look at my peas...they are covered in white fungus the leaves are dying from the bottom up. I'm heartbroken! I love my peas - the flowers were beautiful and the peas were so tasty. I think I am going to have to throw them away.

They have actually gone downhill a lot over the weekend since I took this photo. All but the top leaves are yellow now and the leaves and pods have white mould on them. Sob! I don't think I can save them now but if anyone has any tips as to what I've done wrong here I would really appreciate it. Personally I am going to blame it on the neighbours :)

Here's something nice though. I read Martin's blog at The Good Life where he had a pepper which didn't germinate until he put it in the greenhouse. I have 4 yellow peppers which also wouldn't germinate, so a week or so ago I moved them to the sunniest windowsill we have, and look what's happened...

One out of 4! Thanks for the tip guys. It's a real shame about my peas, but you live and learn. The tomatoes are STILL green, but don't worry - you'll be the first to know when they're edible!

I hope you all had great weekends :)

Sunday, 24 July 2011


I hope you don't mind if I base this post around pictures of some gorgeous things that are happening on my balcony right now.

My wildflower mix (planted to attract the bees and failing miserably) has begun to bloom. I don't know what this plant is but it's beautiful.

A friend who came for dinner recently bought me a gorgeous mini orchid. I find this quite terrifying as I have never usually been able to keep flowers alive, but hopefully my vegetable success will rub off on the orchid.

 This is an open heartsease seed pod.

And lastly, my beans climbing up their pole!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Holiday time & blogging milestones

Uh oh - next week I am away for 3 days of cheese, wine and general tourist fun in Paris. I wouldn't usually be so worried, but then I don't usually have so many plants that require daily watering. What do veg growers, especially container growers, do when they go on holiday?

I could pray for rain, and my outside plants would probably be ok. But the plants inside, especially the chillies which are really thirsty, would probably die.

Plan A - ask a friendly neighbour to water my plants and ply them with macaroons and bottles of wine.

Plan B - soak the plants before I leave and invent some kind of Blue Peter style slow watering device, possibly involving a drinks bottle, duct tape and whatever else is around the house.

Let's hope the neighbours are around!


In other news, I'm really happy as I have just checked my stats and this blog has just reached 1000 views! That's incredible. Thanks to everyone who has come to visit.


I couldn't possibly post an entry without a photo in it. Here is a photo of my tomatoes looking amazing, but still an unapetizing shade of green. How long until they will be red? I'm so impatient! Perhaps when I come back from my holiday they'll be a more edible colour.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sugared Petals

As you know I was very happy to find a heartsease plant as the petals, as well as being beautiful, are edible. Today I attempted to make some sugared petals for decorations on desserts and cakes. This is how you do it:

Lots of petals (rose or violet petals work too)
1 egg white lightly whisked with a little water
Caster sugar
Pastry brush
Baking parchment

The basic method is to brush both sides of the petal in egg white and then cover it in sugar, then leave the petals for 24 hours to dry out. That makes it sound a lot easier than it was. I like fiddly things - I enjoy sewing, embroidery and make handmade cards, but this was a labour of love! I took an age...you end up with sugar everywhere and petals that stick to everything. 

I do think that the end result looks beautiful, but I would not advise you to attempt this unless you have a while and are feeling particularly patient!

I used them to decorate some raspberry cupcakes that I made today.