Open Farm Sunday at Washingpool Farm

We recently had a holiday in Dorset, staying in a cottage at Washingpool Farm, and by a stroke of good fortune, the first day of our visit coincided with Open Farm Sunday!

This meant we could explore the whole farm that was literally on our doorstep; fantastic for Henry as he loves seeing animals, especially chickens, and great news for me as I was able to explore the farm’s polytunnels and growing fields! It was like vegetable garden heaven!

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Forde Abbey Kitchen Gardens

I’m a sucker for visiting a stately home if they’ve got a working kitchen garden within the grounds!

I loved West Dean Walled Kitchen Garden and Clumber Park is quite close to home (although I don’t visit it as often as I’d like to) so during our recent holiday in Dorset, Forde Abbey was definitely on the list of things to do!

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School Garden Design Workshop

Today I had the pleasure of working with pupils at a local school, Carrfield Primary Academy, as part of their ‘Eco Day’!

I worked with four different year groups, first explaining to them how we turned our overgrown garden from this:

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Garden Update May 2016

It’s been a glorious weekend in our part of the UK and we’ve made the most of it by catching up on jobs in the garden!

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We did lots of tidying and planting; seedlings that we’d started in the greenhouse were desperate for potting on or planting out!

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The start of a New Growing Season

What lovely weather it’s been today!

Our first opportunity to get out in the garden as a family and get the growing season up and running for 2016!

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It was also our first chance to introduce Henry to the garden, thanks to my Mum who spent the day walking him round, entertaining him, and pushing his pushchair at naptime!

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Garden Planning 2016

I love this time of year! When it’s cold, dark and everyone’s a little bit miserable, it’s a great time to snuggle up in front of the fire on a dark night and start planning the year ahead in the vegetable garden! I’m making this sound very poetic aren’t I!

I always create a list of the vegetables I want to grow and do a rough guide of where I’m planting each one by using the Growveg.com app, but I have to be honest I never stick 100% to my plan. I vow that I’ll grow everything from seed but then end up also buying plants from the garden centre; and of course every year, some things I’ve attempted just don’t come off!

I create my wishlist of vegetables first, then plot where to plant them. The app is really helpful with this as if you use the same plan year on year, it’ll highlight in red where you’ve situated a particular crop previously so you can avoid planting in the same bed in consecutive years.

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When I’m deciding what to grow, I start by listing the vegetables that we eat most frequently, or that will be most useful to us (and our family and friends!) Then I consider what else I want to achieve from the growing season, usually it’s to try something different or unusual or hard to grow, but this year I’m going for productivity over ambition!

We’ve got a new little mouth to feed and I want to make sure Henry eats as many fruits and vegetables from the garden as we can possibly grow, so sucessional sowing is the key this year! I need a constant supply of staples such as carrots, tomatoes, beans and courgettes, as well as introducing different tastes to him throughout the season!

Finally, a #teething aid that’s actually effective! #carrot #weaning #blw

A photo posted by Helen Lee (@pickleshlee) on Jan 13, 2016 at 12:26pm PST

 

Here’s my list for this year:

  • carrots
  • courgettes
  • runner beans
  • french beans
  • potatoes
  • cauliflower
  • sprouting broccoli
  • sprouts
  • lettuce
  • radish
  • kohl rabi
  • pumpkins
  • parsnips
  • tomatoes
  • chillies
  • spinach
  • leeks

I’m not going completely ‘straight’ when it comes to plant varieties this year, there’ll definitely be some purple carrots thrown into the mix and my one experiment is going to be with ‘flower sprouts‘ which we’ve had from the supermarket a few times and they’re very tasty! I’m also going to make an effort to grow from seed as much as possible, rather than buying plug plants.

Here’s my planting plan for 2016:

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The other thing I love about the Growveg app is the fact that you get a ‘cheat sheet’ (my terminology not theirs!) giving you rough planting and harvesting times! Of course you need to refer to the specific growing instructions for whatever varieties you’re planting, but it’s a handy place to start!

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The thing I love about vegetable gardening…

I’ve spent a lot of time in the garden lately, which has been absolute heaven for me, and has also lead me to analyse what it is that I love so much about vegetable gardening…

I’ve decided the answer is pretty straight forward; I love watching things grow and develop.

This applies to all kinds of gardening, but I think it’s the most satisfying when you’re growing veg. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing flowers and shrubs develop, but to me, it seems that once your flowering plants reach a certain size, you spend the rest of your time pruning, dead-heading and cutting back to stop them taking over!

With vegetables, for the most part, it’s different.

From the moment I sew the seed, I’m waiting impatiently to see that first green shoot poking through the soil. Then I’m watching for the first set of true leaves, and after that I’m measuring every day’s growth, anticipating the first flower appearing.

Flowers then turn to tiny fruit, which, if I’m lucky, will continue to grow day on day, until they begin to ripen and are ready to be picked.

Reading this, you can probably tell that I’m more of a ‘fruiting veg’ kinda girl. I still dabble in brassicas and salad leaves, but I find the most satisfying produce is the type that flowers first, then fruits. This year I’m particularly excited about the cucumbers that are thriving outdoors in the mediterranean  sun (in previous years they’ve failed miserably in my damp greenhouse).

Working ‘from home’ this summer has given me the wonderful gift of time – a cliche I know, but this time last year I would be leaving work at 6.30pm, arriving home after 7pm, cooking dinner, and if I was lucky, grabbing 5 minutes in the garden before it got too dark to see what I was doing. Gardening was more of a weekend treat. This summer, I’ve been finishing work at 5pm English time (6pm French time) and immediately stepping outside and into the veg garden, where I can spend a good hour watering, weeding, observing and admiring, before it’s time to move on with the evening’s activities.

I can honestly say, I am not searching for an abundance of crops this year (which somewhat hampers my other passion, preserving) for example at the moment I’ve only got 1 healthy looking pumpkin from 5 plants, but I am genuinely satisfied to just take pleasure in watching the plants develop day on day, week on week. 🙂