Crafty Garden

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After weeks of relentless rain and drizzle – it’s been rather nice to see the sun this week! The only problem being that I’ve got lots of samples to knit up before Yarndale in September and they’re all rather warm and woolly!

But in the meantime – I’ve been enjoying a bit of time in the garden and have become somewhat obsessed with hydrangeas! I now have four – a climbing hydrangea which is past its best but still pretty, a lacey one (not sure what the proper name is!), a lovely big blousy one and a mini one which I grew from a cutting I took last autumn. My big hydrangea has always been blue/purple in the past – but this year most of the flowers are pink and only a few are purple! I know that this is to do with the type of soil, so I suspect it’s the result of planting a few new things nearby. The colours are really beautiful.

I think I’ll attempt some cuttings from my lacy Hydrangea this year. There soon won’t be space for anything else in the garden!

I’ve had my usual mixture of success and failure in the veg patch. Only a few peas grew (which were immediately eaten straight from the pod!) and no bean plants at all! To be fair the seeds were out of date – but I still would have expected some to germinate so I’m giving the soil some attention in that area. I normally over-winter green manure and dig it in early spring, but I put it in too late last year in that particular area – so I think it’s lacking some goodness. A friend recommended trench composting so I’m giving that a go and fingers crossed I’ll have more success next year.

wp-image-1877797277jpg.jpgI’ve also had a poor crop of strawberries this year. We had so much rain that a lot of the berries just turned brown and rotted. We still had enough for us, but there was no giving them away to neighbours this year! Quite a lot of my strawberry plants have died – but it might have been their last year anyway, because they don’t last forever. There are plenty of feelers popping out from the surviving plants to form new ones so hopefully I’ll be able to fill in this empty corner and get a better crop next year.

I have however got some lovely sweet-peas with courgette growing underneath. I squished the courgette plants in, thinking that some of them might die off, but four have survived and they’re coming along nicely.

The raspberries I planted last year look a bit messy but have been yummy and are still going strong! They’re also sending out new shoots which will fruit next year. I planted a blueberry bush last year which started to form fruit then they all fell off. A similar thing happened this year – but four blueberries have survived!

We had our first homegrown carrot! It was tiny so I’m leaving the rest in for a while, but it was incredibly tasty – so fingers crossed there’s not carrot fly.

And I’ve saved the most exciting garden news until last – we had hedgehogs mating in the front garden!

I saw one in the back garden and then a few days later there were two in the front garden performing a ‘mating ritual’. I bought a wooden hedgehog house for the front garden made from resin infused wood. You’re not meant to paint them inside as that can be harmful to the hedgehogs, but I painted the outside to protect it from the elements and it should hopefully last a few years. This gives them somewhere warm and cosy to have babies and hibernate, protected from predators. Unfortunately I can’t check if they’re in there because they don’t like to be disturbed. I also built a little summer house for them under a bush in the back garden – but my cat has now adopted that area as his favourite place to dose!

The image of the hedgehog above was taken in my neighbours garden and you can probably see some slug pellets. I avoid using slug pellets as they’re really bad for hedgehogs! We get a huge amount of slugs here and I keep them at bay by sprinkling broken eggshells around the base of plants. Slug pellets act as a bait, so even though they kill the slugs they are also attracting more slugs in the first place – so I tend to find eggshells more successful. I’m planning to grow broccoli next year so I will have to step up my slug barriers!

I hope you’re enjoying a bit of sunshine where you are – let me know if you’ve spotted any hedgehogs! x

My Knitting Sanctuary

20160519_093721.jpgMy little team of knitters and I have been busily working away behind the scenes on the forest school friends for a local nursery. Unfortunately things have come to a standstill while I have some yarns tested. I won’t lie – the last month has been rather stressful, as I hugely underestimated how complicated safety checks would be when selling toys! Luckily a workshop lady mentioned this to me (thanks Hillary!) and if selling handmade toys is something you’re considering I would recommend this website as a good starting point so that you’re prepared.

Alongside this -my partner is studying an MSC full time whilst working part time. It’s been somewhat difficult to get days off together – but even more difficult to relax and “switch off” at the same time.

I’ve always been a keen gardener, but over the last month it’s really kept me sane! I like having something to do as it takes my mind off things. Gardening (much like knitting) allows my mind to work through things and put things in perspective in the background, whilst focussing on the job at hand.

The back garden is very much work in progress still. I’ve done a lot of digging ready for building the steps which will give us a flat (ish) seating area at the back. It looks a bit like a building site at the moment!

I love my strawberry patch so much that last year I decided to add more berries. So this year I’m hoping to get some raspberries and blueberries as well! They’re flowering so it looks promising.

As well as peas and beans – I’ve decided to try a couple of new veggies this year. I’ve never done very well with squash in my garden – I get loads of fruit, but they rot off before getting big enough. I’ve tried various things but have decided that for the space they take up it’s not worth it. So instead I’m going to try their relation – the courgette. We eat quite a lot of courgette so it will be great if I do better with these! They’re happily growing in my mini-greenhouse at the moment.

I’m also trying carrots! I’ve always thought my soil isn’t fine enough and I worry about carrot fly. But I’ll never know if I don’t try. Not many have come up so I put some more seeds in at the weekend. Fingers crossed!

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I love seeing how resilient the garden is and I’m particularly impressed with how my Acer has bounced back after the trunk was sliced in two by a big ginger cat falling on it! I stuck it back together with electrical tape but really wasn’t expecting it to recover. A couple of branches died but the rest has come back as good as ever.

I became a bit obsessed with ferns after our holiday to Cornwall last summer and we put one under the tree at the front which is thriving (she’s called Fern Cotton). Then Dad gave me a fern that had grown behind his allotment shed – and I put this in a shady patch at the back and called it Fern Britton. I was convinced it had died and put in a new one right next to where it had been – but then it came back like some weird alien creeping out of the ground! So we now have a new Fern Britton and a zombie Fern Britton.

As much as I love the process of gardening, I’ve always got my mind on the results! I love being able to step out into the front garden and pick fresh fruit and veg. And I’m really looking forward to finishing the back garden and having a little peaceful sanctuary to sit and think…and knit!

Crafty Garden

I’ve been in a bit of a slump for the last couple of weeks and this week I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is. I’ve reached the conclusion that, although I’m pretty good at dealing with change – I’m not great at anticipating change!

I always feel a bit down in August/September and it tends to coincide with a change in the weather. I love Autumn and I’m ready to embrace it – but it’s not quite in full swing yet. I do struggle with the transition from spending all my spare time in the garden, to cosying up on the sofa. I feel like I’m on the cusp of a new season, a busy time and lots of change!

I think I’m finding it particularly difficult this year because I’ve really made the most of the summer and done a huge amount of work in the garden. I always feel a bit of an anti-climax when I finish something. It’s often a few months before I learn to love a finished knit, and when I decorate a room I have to live in it for a while before it feels right. I think all the hard work in the garden will pay off next spring!

I have a typical little terraced house, but I’m lucky enough to have two gardens! The front garden is my veg patch and the back ‘yard’ is where I sit to relax, eat, work and think.

Above is a little reminder of how it looked earlier this year. I had a very wonky fence that fell down on windy days, a bench I couldn’t sit on because the wood had rotted and an old bureau which I wanted to turn into a mini-greenhouse. Dad had already built me some lovely shed doors, I’d moved some slabs around to make a curved path and planted some ‘weeds’ for ground-cover in shady spots, which I was hoping would fill the gaps and eventually cover the edges of the old slabs.

I now have a beautiful new teal fence, a renovated bench with all new wood, a mini-greenhouse, almost finished shed doors (they still need handles), a freshly painted back wall and a lovely patch of weeds. Most importantly – the neighbours cat approves!

The biggest job for me was painting the fence. Two coats per side, plus three coats on the posts was a lot! Dad has been a HUGE help with putting up the fence (not a one woman job), renovating the bench and building the shed doors. I think I’m most proud of the greenhouse because I did it all myself and it looks great.

So next year the plan is to build some steps and raise the back section to create a flat seating area and make a new gate. I think I’ll need to move dad in for the summer!

I hope you’re not having a post-summer slump? Not long now until we can fully embrace Autumn!

Crafty Gardening – The Mini Greenhouse

I used to find it very difficult to keep on top of the garden jobs and still find time to relax with my knitting in the evening. Years of not getting round to the big jobs have resulted in a rather wild garden!

The bugs would often get to my fruit and veg before I had time to pick it, my post-people would get attached to the overgrown rambling rose and the BT man fell through the rotten wood of my bench when leaning on it to check some wires (he was worried I was going to sue them for breaking my bench!). My fence has fallen down every winter for the last few years, and as I haven’t had time to replace it I’ve just been sawing off the rotten ends of the posts and putting them back in the other way!

With things a bit quieter through the summer months this year,  I have the luxury of time to get some big jobs done –  although I don’t have the luxury of lots of money so I’m sticking to a budget and doing some up-cycling.

I’m covered in scratches from cutting things back, but the garden is looking so much better already. I’ve called in the expert (Dad) for some of the bigger jobs and he’s already built new shed doors, started work on replacing the wood on my rotten bench and will be helping me to install a new fence and build steps to create a raised seating area in the sloped back yard.

In the meantime – I’ve been working on up-cycling an old bureau, which has been living in the shed for years, to create a mini greenhouse. I’ve run out of space on my windowsill so I need somewhere warm to get seedlings started and maybe attempt pepper growing.

I looked into buying a mini-greenhouse but all the reviews seemed to say they were very rickety and only lasted one summer. For the same price I have transformed my old bureau into a really sturdy little coldframe/greenhouse.

Ta dah!

mini greenhouse

I’m so excited about getting the new fence up and all the other big jobs. It’s going to be a lovely garden to sit in with a glass of wine and my knitting…it’ll be well worth all the hard work!

Summertime!

After a busy six months of designing, it’s lovely to have a slightly quieter couple of months to do some planning for Autumn/Winter and enjoy the warmer weather!

I’ve been doing a litte spring clean of my worshops (delayed spring clean!).  Professional Finishing Techniques is one of my most popular subjects and Ted now has a new cardigan with a garter stitch border instead of moss st.

I’ve made a new Ted in Pure Wool Worsted so that shops can choose for me to teach the subject in either dk or worsted. I think he’s pretty cute in either, but I particularly like him knitted in yellow! You can download the Ted pattern for free here and the cardigan and jumper are taught at my professional finishing workshops.

I’ve also updated the Lazy Lace workshop so this is now project based and you will learn basic lace knitting whilst making a Cowl. I’m teaching this subject at Ewe Wool Shop of Stamford in September which is availble to book now.

I’m introducing a few new subjects for Autumn/Winter, including a toy knitting workshop based on my new book The Knitted Nursery Collection. Keep your eye out for dates near you!

I think it’s important to make the most of the quiet time while I can, so I’ve been tackling some jobs in the garden as well. I’m turning an old neglected bureau into a mini greenhouse, replacing a rotten fence and doing some tree surgery (chopping things back to nothing and hoping they’ll survive!).

Apparently I’m not very good at doing nothing! What jobs are you tackling this summer?

 

 

Crafty Gardening

I’ve been so busy recently working on my new book that I haven’t had much time off! But when I have – I’ve been doing a bit of crafty gardening. The recent sunshine and showers have made everything go a bit wild!

I’m planning some big jobs in the back yard this year and have made a start, but it’s currently quite messy. I will be levelling off the main flower bed (with dad’s help) And turning it into a seating area. Now that I’m working from home a lot I think it’s important to have an outside office area! I will be doing some nineties style crazy paving and will be planting thyme and camomile in the gaps to soften the edges.

My fence desperately needs replacing. There are only so many times I can saw off the rotten fence post ends and put them back in the other way round – they’re getting too short for the fence panels! A new fence will definitely improve the overall look.

I also wanted to have some lovely stepping stones leading from the door to my new seating area, but unfortunately my budget is £0! So I’ve moved some slabs to create a curved path and I’m growing various ground cover which will cover and soften the edges of the slabs (I hope).

My dad has built and installed some beautiful doors for my outhouses! They’re nearly finished and then I will be painting them in farrow &ball dix blue and putting on my lovely garden shed sign. I previously only had one door and it was rotten – so I’m really happy with these! The wood above the doors is not great but dad didnt think we could remove that without the whole structure collapsing, so he has built supporting struts and hopefully it won’t fall down!

Dad is also repairing my rotten bench which will move to the back garden when it’s sorted. Dad’s great!

In veg patch news – I’ve decided to pay attention to my brother telling me to rotate my veg! But because my patch is so small I’m just going to grow a couple of things each year. So this year is potatoes and tomatoes and next year will be beans and peas. After the success of my strawberries I’ve decided to introduce more fruit. I bought a blueberry bush that was already growing and that’s doing well – it has flowers!

I’ve had a few gardening fails as well. I planted some raspberries which are doing nothing and just look like dead twigs! I’ll leave them in just in case and dad is going to get me some from his allotment as well. So hopefully I’ll have raspberries next year.

I have a massive green fly problem with my roses which turns in a catapiller problem later in the summer. Do you know of any natural ways to deal with this? I’ve tried washing up liquid and garlic with no success.

My beautiful acer suffered a major trauma during a cat fight a few weeks ago! I think a huge ginger tom fell off the wall and landed on it. Most of the branches broke straight off and the trunk was split in two. I bandaged it together with electrical tape and it seems to be surviving – fingers crossed!

Crafty Garden- The fruits of my labour

I hate to say it- but with the final bank holiday of the summer coming up, I’m starting to feel a bit autumnal!

After putting quite a lot of work into my veg patch earlier in the year, I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labour over the last few months- and I’m now enjoying my tomatoes, shallots and looking forward to some autumnal butternut squash.

 

The strawberries looked promising early on and didn’t disappoint! They take very little effort and after three years, my plants are producing more fruit every year.

 

I was worried about growing my potatoes in sacks as I normally do them in the ground. But to give the soil a rest from the potato family I thought I’d try the sacks- and they did look blooming cute! They started producing huge leafs early on so I was worried they were putting energy into the plant and not the roots- but it turned out to be the best crop of earlys I’ve had for a few years!

The only problem I had was that some were a bit green- I’m not sure whether that’s because some light was getting through the sacks? Let me know if you know why!

 

Now- I don’t want to speak too soon on the squash, because the last couple of times I’ve grown them they’ve had lots of fruit which have all rotted off before they were ready. That’s why I built a twig sculpture to grow them up- so that they’re not resting on the wet soil. It’s working so far- fingers crossed!

 

Despite being extremely  neglectful of my tomatoes and not watering them much- they’re doing really well. Sometimes lazy gardening works! I didn’t have a huge amount of success with my peas and beans (just a couple of meals)- but the sweet-peas have gone crazy and they smell beautiful.

The plant I’m most proud of is my pepper. Out of six plants- only one grew fruit and they’re still tiny. It’s probably far too late now for them to ripen, but I have never successfully grown peppers from seed so it makes me really happy!

I have a really small veg patch, and after my initial excitement in the spring- I do very little to maintain it. I’m always surprised and pleased with how much grows as a result of my lazy gardening! Do you have a veg patch? If not- have you tried growing your own in pots?

Crafty Garden Update

With all this lovely sunshine, I feel inspired to give you a little veg patch update!

When I wrote my last crafty gardener blog, I had just planted my potatoes in lovely little sacks. They are now trying to take over the world! (along with the weeds). I’m hoping that the potatoes inside are as big and impressive as the plants, but I’m a bit concerned that they’re putting too much energy into the leaves and not into the spuds. I’ve never tried growing them in sacks before so it’s a bit experimental- and I suspect my sacks are a bit too small!

I’ve already started harvesting the fruits of my labour and have eaten a couple of bowls of strawberries (as well as grabbing one or two every-time I walk through the garden). My challenge is getting to them before the slugs! If you have any organic anti-slug tips- please let me know! Eggshells work well. I’ve never tried the drowning in beer thing. It seems a bit mean.

My second lot of squash seedlings are doing better than the first ones but haven’t really got going yet. The main problem I’ve had in the past is the fruit rotting off before they’re big enough so I only end up with one or two per plant. I’ve made a sort of twig sculpture for them to grow up so that the squash won’t be sitting on the ground. It’s a bit wobbly so I’ll let you know how that goes!

And a crafty garden isn’t complete without some pretty flowers!

Crafty Gardener

My dad has always had an allotment- which he used to share with my Grandad. I think my main involvement when I was younger was helping to pick and eat the strawberrys!

One of the best things about my little house, is the fact that it has two gardens! They’re both quite teeny, but it means I can have a nice private flowery garden at the back where I can relax and knit- and a veg patch at the front.

I like the fact that it’s a small space because it’s manageable- and I don’t have to travel far to do the watering. But in an ideal world- you should rotate where you plant your veg- this is difficult in a small space. I didn’t have much success last summer, so I’ve taken advice from my brother, who has a successful allotment, and I’m hoping for more luck this year!

I’ve planted my potatoes in sacks and I’m going to grow my tomatoes in hanging baskets to give the soil a year off from those. I also dug up a few bushes to plant my beans, peas and sweet-peas in a different place (above with cloches made from bottles)- these will be growing up the fence. My strawberries have got lots of flowers on so I’m hoping for a bumper crop, and the shallots are looking good!

In an attempt to improve the soil- I overwintered some green manure and dug that in just before it started flowering. I’ve also made a worm-hole, which I saw on Pinterest! I think that’s working because I saw the biggest worm I’ve ever seen the other day! Almost as long as the garden. Maybe it was a snake?

The peppers on my windowsill are also looking quite happy- so it’s going pretty well, but it’s not all been a success. I’ve managed to kill some basil, coriander, lettuce and squash seedlings- I possibly just put these in too soon so I’ll try again.

Do you have a veg patch or allotment? Or even just a windowsill? I’d love to see pics of how your seedlings are getting on!