Virtual Garden Fest 2020

One of the things I’m missing during lockdown is looking around other people’s gardens! I love visiting National Trust places with walled gardens and neat veg patches… but mostly I love looking around ‘real’ gardens and picking up tips and tricks.

So this weekend over on Instagram I’m hosting a virtual open gardens! Yesterday I did a live tour of my front garden/veg patch which will be available until 3pm today – and this afternoon I will be doing a live tour of my back garden.

Everyone is welcome to join in! Whether you have an allotment, a messy small garden (like me), a few pots on a patio or a house plant that brings you a lot of joy… I’d love to hear about it. Just share pictures on your grid and/or in your stories using the hashtag #virtualgardenfest2020. And if you’re doing an Instagram live tour – make sure you let us know on your grid/in your stories so that anyone following the hashtag can find you!

And if you just want to follow along and have a virtual mooch around our gardens – hop over to #virtualgardenfest2020 and give us some love!

Happy gardening x

A Decade of Gardening

I was sorting some old paperwork recently and came across the estate agents images from when I bought my little house ten years ago.

I still had a pretty clear memory of how the house looked inside – but the garden images really surprised me so I thought you might like to see some ‘then and now’ images!

Apologies for the quality of the ‘then’ images… they’re photos of photos.

Back garden

I tried to get a photo from roughly the same angle but it’s almost unrecognisable! The steps and patio have made such a big difference and the top part of the garden (where we get the sun) is much more usable.

I remember it not really feeling like my garden for the first few years. Now that it’s a bit overgrown it’s definitely more me!

Front garden

Digging up the front lawn was one of the first things I did! We’re so lucky to have both a front and back garden so that I can have a separate fruit and veg patch.

It’s a fraction of the size of your average allotment but it’s a very productive space. The paths and raised bed frames which I put in earlier this year have made it a lot more practical. Everything’s growing like mad but I can still just about find the paths!

And of course the most important thing is that we have lots of sunbathing areas and shady spots for the cats!

Veg Patch 2018 – Wins & Losses

Well it’s been a somewhat different year for gardening!

First the snow meant a slow start, then everything went a bit wild with the sunshine & showers and now we’re suffering from a serious lack of rain.

The result for me is a mixture of success and failure… but it was a “cram loads in and see what happens” kinda year anyway!

Veg patch - small garden

It’s the first year that I’ve grown a few things in pots on my bench and the carrots are looking good. I’m gradually thinning them out and checking the size…they’re still teeny at the moment.

We had a lot of spinach but then some sort of pest got them. I’m not sure what it was, but the leaves had tiny white eggs underneath and then they went translucent. I cut them back to nothing and they’re back… but so are the pests!

Veg patch - small gardenI’ve only just got flowers on my tomatoes! I squeezed them into a spot where I don’t think they’re getting enough light. But fingers crossed for a handful of tomatoes!

Veg patch - small gardenThe squash and courgette really are squeezed into a corner… and suffering from it! One squash plant died quite quickly and the other is small with no flowers. The courgette plants have only had male flowers so no fruit. I’ll leave them in their little dry, dark corner and see what happens. They’re quite promiscuous so I was hoping for a courgette/squash hybrid!

Veg patch - small garden

We’ve had zillions of raspberries, but the plants are looking a bit unhealthy in the cramped conditions. The autumn fruiting raspberry is getting ready…

Veg patch - small gardenThe blueberry bush is now completely covered by raspberry plants so I’m going to move him in the autumn.

Strawberries haven’t been so good…

Veg patch - small garden

We had some decent ones – which I was happy about because I wasn’t expecting any this year. But pretty much all of the plants are now dead. I originally planted my strawberry patch about 9 years ago and since then have had lots of new plants growing from runners. But other than a bit of liquid feed, I haven’t added anything to the soil so I’ve decided to dig it all up, add in some compost and start from scratch with new plants next year.

The herb patch is also pretty wild, messy and in some places dead! We haven’t been using the herbs much because they’re difficult to get to – so it’s definitely time to move things around a bit and potentially make a bit more space for veg.

Veg patch - small garden

I think I’ll just enjoy the crazy wildness for now and move things in late summer/early autumn.

Veg patch - small garden

After a slow start, the parsnips have got going. Apparently they’re notoriously bad at germinating but I’ve ended up with ten plants from half a pack of seeds, so I’m pretty pleased with that. You can see the early potatoes in the edge of this photo – I’m looking forward to lifting some of those soon… I haven’t had a peek yet though so they might still be small.

How’s your garden doing?

Spring has Sprung

It’s been a very long winter with a few false starts where odd days have felt spring-like. But now the snow has cleared, the clocks have gone forward and this week has properly felt like spring!

After a winter of neglect, I’ve started pottering around the garden – enjoying the daffodils and crocuses and looking forward to eating the purple sprouting broccoli that’s just starting to peek out from in between the leaves.

I love this time of year when everything is growing and colour is coming back to the garden – I know that it will all look so different in just a few weeks.

As usual- I’ve got lots of plans for the garden this year… but I also want to do some work on the house so I don’t expect I’ll get it all done!

The priorities are building a step up to the wall that dad and I built last summer. It will replace the wobbly pile of bricks we’re currently using to step up to the patio area!

Flatio | Jem Weston blog

And the second priority is replacing the picket fencing around my fruit, veg and herb patches. It’s seen better days and the wood has rotted and broken in places. I want to start by building a cage for the strawberry patch but haven’t quite worked out the rest yet!

I’m also hoping for a good hydrangea year because they will be my wedding flowers! She’s got off to a good start so fingers crossed.

Happy Easter everyone x

Mental Health Awareness Week

Last year on Mental Health Awareness Day I wrote a blog about looking after your mental health as well as your physical health regardless of whether you have mental health issues.

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation are looking at why too few of us are thriving with good mental health, rather than why so many people are living with mental health problems.

My workload so far this year has meant that I’ve had little time to look after my well-being and have very much been surviving rather than thriving. So as I’m writing this on Friday – I have decided that instead of writing a long blog – I’m going to knock off a bit early to do some gardening and knitting!

And then after this blog posts on Sunday I will be switching off my phone for the rest of the day so that I can enjoy the moment without being distracted. Why not join me? It doesn’t hurt to switch off once in a while…it helps us thrive x

Veg Patch 2017

One of the main reasons I fell in love with my little house was the fact that it had two gardens!

The house might be bursting at the seams (…mostly with wool), but I have a lovely little private garden at the back as well as a good space at the front for growing fruit and veg. It involved digging up a lawn and lots of hard work, but over the years it’s grown into a rather pretty little allotment/garden.

I was reluctant to put up this big ugly grow cage…but it’s brassicas year so it had to be done!

In the past I used both beds in the front garden for veg and rotated my crops between them. But since I started a strawberry patch I’ve been struggling to get things going in the small space next to it.

The area is sheltered by the Ceanothus which I refuse to lose even though it’s become too big for the space! For a month or so every spring it turns the most beautiful shade of blue and then as it drops – the whole garden becomes a carpet of blue. I cut it back a lot last year so it’s a bit more under control but I still have to contend with that area being sheltered from the sun and rain as well as the thick roots.

So that space is now a herb patch! I’ve surrounded everything with twigs while it gets established in an attempt to keep the cats away.

Now that I just have the one bed to use for veg, I’m rotating the crops I grow in it on a yearly basis. Last year I grew Legumes (peas/beans) so this year I’m doing Brassicas (cabbage family). The legumes were a complete flop last year so I took everything out early, put some courgette in (which did very well) and tried some trench composting followed by over-wintering green manure. The soil seems better so fingers crossed.

I haven’t grown brassicas for years because they always got decimated by pests…hence the ugly grow cage this year! I’ve made a start with some purple sprouting broccoli, kale and brokali seedlings. It might be a bit early for them but I’m planning to stagger planting and have plenty of seeds left if these fail.

I’m keeping them warm with cloches made out of plastic bottles (large innocent smoothie bottles are the best), protecting them from slugs with copper rings and egg shells and then the netting over the cage will protect them from caterpillars and cabbage white.

I think I’ll attempt some lettuce as well once it’s a bit warmer….might need to make beer traps as well for a three-pronged slug attack!

Over the last few years I’ve gradually been digging up hedges which were along the fence when I moved in. This has given me a strip of soil perfect for growing raspberries up the fence. I planted seven canes (is that the right name?), some I bought from Wilkos and some from Dad’s allotment. Two of the summer fruiting ones from Dad have survived and are happily growing leaves on the new shoots they sent out last year.

The autumn fruiting one (from Wilkos) was hugely prolific last year and actually fruited in summer, had a rest and then fruited again in Autumn. I cut this back to the ground as autumn fruiting raspberries fruit on the new years growth… I can’t wait for berry season!

We also planted a blueberry bush two summers ago. Last year it produced three blueberries! Hoping for more this summer.

What are you growing? Do you have any tips for brassicas and blueberries?

Making (slow) Progress

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I’ve got a busy weekend of Woolfest ahead so I’m writing and scheduling this in advance. If you went to Woolfest – I hope you had a lovely time! I’m sure next Sunday’s blog will be Woolfest themed.

I realised that it’s been a while since I updated you on what I’m making outside of work…the reason being that I haven’t had much time outside of work!

I’m still sticking to the one project per category rule that I set myself in a blog at the beginning of the year and seem to be halfway through lots of projects at the moment.

Knitting
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My Jamie cardigan is getting there. I’m only finding a couple of hours a week to work on this so it’s slow progress – but I’ve finished the back and reached the armhole shaping on the fronts. I’m very excited about the pockets!

Crochet
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I started a chevron blanket at the Frank & Olive Crochet retreat – but it wasn’t working for me so I started again and now it’s more of a ripple than a chevron. This is a lovely project to dip in and out of so it’s perfect for knit group and destined to be a baby blanket for my friend’s new baby.

Sewing

I traced and cut out the pattern in brown paper for my Merchant and Mills coat. And now I’ve sort of abandoned it! The sewing bee is getting me all fired up to do some sewing! I just need a bit of time to concentrate.

Patchwork
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I really want to make a hexi patchwork quilt – so I thought I would start with a cushion to practice the paper piecing. I definitely needed the practice! It’s nearly done and I’m hoping a good iron will sort out the lumpy bits.

Garden
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I’ve been busy with day to day gardening jobs and have even managed to encourage a hedgehog into the garden! The big job for this summer was to build some steps to create a seating area – and that is currently on hold. Unfortunately my dad hurt his hip so we won’t be bricklaying for a while – but it’s not really been the weather for sitting out in the garden anyway! I’ve made temporary steps from wobbly piles of bricks so that I can get to the garden bench – and the cats are enjoying the mound of soil!

I hope all your WIPs are going well! 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!

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?