• Sunday, January 03rd, 2016

I have seen mushroom growing kits in the UK before but this Christmas I was given a kit which was suitable as a gift since the marketing on the box was fun and smart.

Mushroom growing kit

Mushroom growing kit

It was easy to use, simply cut a cross in the plastic area of the cardboard container and then spray with water each day. Success was guaranteed or a replacement box would be supplied.

In my case it only took 5 days before the mushrooms started to grow. Since the box was purchased in France the mushroom variety is Pleurotes jaunes, i.e. pleurotus or oyster mushrooms. Within 6 days we had 2 huge yellow oyster mushrooms which we cut and ate as in an omelette. They had a subtle nutty taste.

It seems that one of the mushroom reached maturity since we saw a lot of spores had flown around the box but fortunately I don’t seem to be allergic to spores.

My friend also bought a kit for herself (a box) and started hers at the same time as I did so that we could compare notes. Hers started to grow later but she had lots of small mushrooms. I don’t know what predetermines whether you get 2 big mushrooms or lot of small fungi but you do please let me know!

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• Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Today we discovered a splendid water garden located in Norfolk near Oxborough where it seems a school fete was on.

Gooderstone Water Garden

The Gooderstone Water Gardens include four ponds as well as river walks along the river Gadder in an area which used to be marshland. On this sunny day we enjoyed strolling around this English garden where campanulas (trachelium and portenschlagiana), geraniums of various colours and lysimachia puntata were at their best.

We also admired the sways of astrantias, lambsears, astilbes, with white achilleas in the background.
This is a peaceful and refreshing garden where huge weeping willows, birch trees are mirrored in the clear ponds. more…

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• Sunday, February 05th, 2012

Today in my fen garden we have had 4 inches of snow, as predicted by the weather forecast. There is not a lot to do in the garden other than clearing the path and feeding the birds. I also tried cleaning my greenhouse with the snow, as I read on the internet that it was an easy way to clean the glass panels. However I think that I will still need to use Jeyes cleaning fluid in the Spring to desinfect the glass panels.

Snowy garden

The deep layer of snow makes everything look even and peaceful. I hope that the crocus which were starting to sprout don’t get too damaged by the heavy snow. Similarly the echium which I have left in a pot covered in fleece may not make it through this winter.

Today Spring seems far away as the cold weather front is expected to persist in East Anglia in the week to come.

• Sunday, January 29th, 2012

This is the start of a new gardening year for me as I rummage through the 2012 garden seed catalogues and plan my sowings for the year ahead. Today I went to my local garden centre and I bought some first early potato seeds, which are a variety called Swift, as well as a salad potato variey called Ratte which is highly appreciated in France. I have never grown the Swift potato variety before and I hope to get better result with this type of early crop which is supposed to be good for boiling as well as new potato.

Ratte New Potatoes

Last year I gave the International Kidney variety a try – they are the equivalent of the Jersey Royal new potatoes. Unfortunately the yield was not so good last year and this could be due to the dry weather which was not so favourable to a healthy growth of the tubers.

Last Spring I also grew a first early potato variety called Epicure, which is a typical Ayrshire potato but again the crop was not particularly outstanding.

On the other hand the main crop variety which I grew last year was Kind Edward, and the yield was good except that they did not store so well in the shed compared to previous years. The reason for this could have been the exceptionally warm autumn and winter which we experienced and this goes to show that no two years are the same with gardening. Certain crops will perform differently given certain conditions.

For now I have stored my potato seeds in a cool dark place ready for chitting in a few weeks time.
By then I will need to have finished digging the vegetable plot in time for planting my seeds in March. Speaking to fellow gardeners in East Anglia it seems that many of us are not yet done with the digging which makes me feel better.

Half way there with my muddy wellington boots and my fork I paused to contemplate the barren soil in anticipation for an abundant forthcoming harvest season.

• Friday, February 11th, 2011

Gardening in February always starts with some ungrateful tasks such as cleaning the greenhouse and fixing the water butt (which collapsed on the floor due to the amount of ice in the worst of the winter cold). However the sense of anticipation of the new season to come has kept me going on a grey and blustery weekend.

Top of the agenda was pruning the red grape vine which is climbing alongside my shed. I had to borrow a ladder and started to cut down the excess of shoots back to 2 buds. I have also managed to secure a plastic bucket on my rhubarb with the help of a few stones – which offers a basic alternative to fancy rhubarb terracotta pots designed for forcing the vegetable.

I have also pruned my blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes and weeded the base of the bush. Hopefully when the wind eases off and weather allowing I shall be able to feed my bushes a sprinkling of sulphate of potash. This should help them get a kick start in Spring and stimulate the bush to produce a good crop of fruits.

Getting on with the digging is a key task at this time of the year, as I start looking into my sowing plans for the year taking into account plant rotation. I actually found a few rotten beetroots which had been missed from the harvest in autumn, as well as a few baby carrots which I have managed to use in a beef stew. I also wish I had harvested the last of my celery stalks earlier as the plant didn’t fare well in the cold and snow.

I have observed a few crocuses starting to emerge and I guess a warm spell is all they need to burst into blossom. The garden looks like a battle field with the vestiges of faded flower heads, worn out lawn and broken plants seemingly struggling in the wind.

As I contemplate my bare garden and consider alternative crops and flowers I really look forward to the Spring to come.

• Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

East Anglia has received its fair share of rain in the last month or so and it certainly feels like a new season is approaching.

Cucumber in the Greenhouse

Cucumber in the Greenhouse

In between showers and cloudy/wintry days I have been able to harvest my first crop of potatoes from a variety called Red Duke of York. The 2010 crop was not as bountiful as previous years due to the extremely dry weather which we experienced at the beginning of the summers and the late spring.

My tomatoes are ripening nicely in the greenhouse and also outdoors. In fact I have been busy feeding the plants with organic tomato feed as these plants are rather greedy. I had a nice crop of cucumbers in the greenhouse but it’s coming to the end as some of my plants have really dried out. I haven’t had as much success with peppers as I have in previous years and I am not sure of the reasons why. There is a possibility that I have overfed the plants and encouraged them to grow leaves as opposed to flowers. The peppers are still small and green but this could be due to the fact that this is a different variety from my usual favouriate Tasty Grill Red F1 Hybrid variety.

I have managed to cope with my courgette glut by sharing my crop and also using them extensively in risottos and in roast. My courgettes are truly relishing the wet weather and it is showing. Likewise the lawn is starting to recover from the draught which completely burnt out the green expanse of grass.

I will have to keep an eye on potato blight and tomato diseases if the wet weather continues for too long. The gardening season is not over for me yet as I am preparing my final sowing of beans and lettuces to come.

• Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

The gardening activity picked up during the months of May and June, and I have been busy planting my seedlings in the garden and the greenhouse. The flower borders saw a succession of Spring flowers and bulbs soon to be replaced by the Summer annuals which I have recently planted. This includes petunias, antirhinums and geraniums.

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

I think that it’s fair to say that although spring was late, it has been rather good and was soon followed by a lovely sunny Summer so far. I have quickly ran out of water from my recycled water butt and the lawn is looking rather yellow and dry but I don’t intend to water it since I know that it will recover as soon as the rain comes again.

My greenhouse is packed with tomato, cucumber and pepper plants which I visit daily to make sure that the cucumbers are climbing nicely against the twine which I have hung from the greenhouse ceiling. Tomato plants need to be staked regularly as they develop more flowers and fruits rapidly in summer and may collapse otherwise. I have 2 different grow bags, one of which is peat free and was purchased from B&Q. I have noticed that the 3 peppers in that bag aren’t doing so well as the other ones.

I have enjoyed the cherries from the half of the tree which I protected from birds although they appeared to be rather small this year. I have noticed some particularly big bumble bees flying around my fruit trees and shrubs and I have been wondering why.

This year I have managed to dig over and plant the whole of the garden which is now full of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Gardening has been very rewarding so far, what with the weather being so good and the crops coming on nicely, so bring on July!

• Friday, April 30th, 2010

Many amateur gardeners like myself are likely to have a cherry tree in their garden, whether it is a decorative type or fruit bearing variety. And at this time of the year you cannot fail to spot them with their beautiful blossoms. Like me you can take part in the urban cherry survey which is planned to run for 3 years and is organised by the National History Museum. The aim of this survey is to find out more about the changes to the urban landscape. The cherry tree survey is anonymous and can help the National History Museum and other research organisations gain useful information about the biodiversity of the wildlife in urban areas where the trees are growing. And since the United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity this initiative is a good opportunity for the public to be involved at a local level.

Cherry Tree Survey

Cherry Tree Survey

Taking part in the survey is easy and only takes a few seconds. You just need to enter the postcode of the area where you have spotted the cherry tree and give a few details about the type of cherry tree which you have identified. There are some guidelines on the website for people who are not sure about types of cherry tree. My cherry tree is a fruit tree from a Morello variety which I planted in my garden 5 years ago, and it looks magnificent at present (as you can see in the header of this website). But I need to remember to put a net on top of my tree to prevent the birds from eating all the fruits later in the year. Some birds like the black bird or thrush do manage to get in the net anyway but all is not lost.

By taking part in this survey you will contribute to developing a greater understanding of how changes in the climate may affect where and how trees grow as part of the overall biodiversity picture.

• Sunday, March 07th, 2010

This weekend I have been busy picking the last of the Winter vegetables from the garden as the weather has been good and I can get on with digging the vegetable patch.

I collected the last brussel sprouts, most of which have been nibbled by hungry wild rabbits. In my raised bed I also harvested the last carrots and parsnips, which were actually quite small but very tasty in my beef and ale stew.

Cold frame lettuce

Cold frame lettuce

My coldframe protected the Winter Lettuce from the worst of the Winter weather including the snow and I was delighted to be able to pick some Lambs Lettuce and Rocket as you can see in the picture below. A few croutons and some fried pancetta accompanied my mixed salad nicely at lunchtime.

I am still enjoying the garlic and shallots which I grew last year but supplies are running out rapidly. And in fact this morning I planted my new shallots (called Red Sun) in the area where I grew potatoes last year. The sun was shining and the crocuses near my greenhouse had opened up their purple petals as a sure sign that we are now coming out of Winter.

• Monday, March 01st, 2010

The Winter weather in the UK has been so cold and wet that even the Daffodils don’t seem to have turned up for St David’s Day. Now I may not have seen any single single Daffodil in bloom but I still need to get ready for spring.

Has Spring been delayed?

Has Spring been delayed?

So today I have sown a few red Geranium seeds in a pot which I shall keep indoors on a window sill to compensate for last year’s plants which I sheltered in the greenhouse but died due to the cold. I have also sown some Nemesia seeds which are really tiny and not so easy to grow since it’s difficult to see where the seed lands on the compost. Nemesias are small plants with delicate flowers which I find particularly useful for the front of the flower border.

My Chilli seeds were also ready to go in a little terracota pot by my south facing spare bedroom window. The window sills are not all yet filled with pots so there is still more space for this morning’s sowing of Marigolds and Gallardias. Every year I grow Marigolds which I like to plant along the garden path leading to my vegetable patch. They circle the path nicely with their bright yellow compact blooms.

In March I feel like a new life cycle is about to start with so many new plants to sow in time for Spring.