Posted by: sweetpea | May 21, 2008

Nettles are fantastic……

…… long as you don’t happen to sting yourself that is, then they are a pain, but easily remedied by squeezing dock leaf juice on the affected area.

Stinging nettle

So why are Nettles fantastic…well I can give you 3 good reasons (you can find more info on Nettles at the ‘Be Nice to Nettles’  website) :

They’re great for wildlife

 Nettles can be found prettty much everywhere, from abandoned ground in inner cities, right through the suburbs and into the countryside.  You might think that because they sting they wouldn’t be much good for wildlife, but in fact it is that tendency that makes them home to a great variety of insects.  The sting of nettles means that not many large herbivores will eat them, so any insects living on them are pretty safe as they themselves are too small to trigger the sting.

So what might you find living on and around nettles?  

Nettles support up to 40 different species of insects, ranging from aphids up to some of our colourful butterflies. The Nettle weevil for instance is to be found only on nettles.  The larvae of Peacock, Comma, Red Admiral and Small Tortishell Butterflies all feed on nettles, as do those of some of our moths e.g. The Spectacle, Beautiful Golden Y, Burnished Brass.

Aphids overwintering on nettles provide an early meal for ladybirds, and also help feed blue tits and other small woodland birds.  Later on in the year the seeds also provide food for many seed eating birds.

They make really tasty soup

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Posted by: sweetpea | May 20, 2008

Coast to Coast Pt 1

Well, I did it…I walked 90ish miles in 6 days between St Bees and Kirkby Stephen….still a little amazed that I managed it!


I thought rather than bore you with a detailed account of the whole walk, I’d instead share my favourite photo’s and moments from each stage.  But before I do I’d just like to say that we were so lucky with the weather, definitely don’t think it would have been so enjoyable had it been raining!  If any of you have ever considered walking the Coast 2 Coast route, I’d thoroughly recommend it for he views and scenery alone (although of course I only have a vague idea of what the second half would be like). 


So here goes:


Day 1 : St Bees to Ennerdale


The coastline at St Bees was covered in wildflowers….Bluebells, Thrift, Sea Campion, Red Campion; and the cliffs are heaving with seabirds nesting, we saw mainly guillemots, but also some gulls.


Thrift and Sea Campion


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Posted by: sweetpea | May 8, 2008

Preparing for a holiday…..


Summer is here at last, the sun is shinning and many of us will be getting ready to head off on holiday, me included…. in fact I am off tomorrow for a week of walking across the Lakes (did I mention I’m doing half the Coast to coast walk!).  In preperation for my week away I have not only been preparing for what I need to take with me, but also for what I am leaving behind….. my precious allotment, and more to the point my seedlings.

Now I’m pretty sure I’m not alone amongst lottie folk in worrying about my little plot while I’m away for anything more than a few days during the growing season.  Whilst I want sunny weather for my hols it’s not necessarily what I want for the lottie whilst I’m away as I can’t be there to water if there is a need.  Luckily I have a good friend and fellow lottie holder who I can always rely on to keep on eye on things whilst I’m away. This time I have only my pea and sweet pea seedlings that will need keeping an eye on, and I have also asked her if she can remove any dandelion flowers whilst I’m away (I’m really trying to keep on top of them this year).

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Posted by: sweetpea | May 8, 2008

Early May at Middlethorpe Hall Garden

apple blossom

Isn’t the apple blossom beautiful.

When I arrived for my afternoon of gardening yesterday, the apple blossom in the walled garden was the first thing I noticed.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen the garden and so much had changed.  The walled garden is not only in full bloom with the many apple and pear trees,

The walled garden


but the herbaceous perennials are shooting up to take over from the spring bulbs.  All the daffodils in the Spring garden are now pretty much dead,

The walled garden


the white garden is starting to look much more like a white garden with Dicentra and tulips amongst others now in bloom. 

The White garden


The shade garden has also sprouted a lot more growth, with Bergenia in flower with the last of the daffodils, and the first of the tulips

The shade garden


and Polygonatum showing their blooms. 

Solomon seal

Posted by: sweetpea | May 6, 2008

Offa’s Dyke

View from Offa\'s Dyke

Last Tuesday I headed down to Hay on Wye to meet up with my friend Tony who is doing the Land’s end to John o’Groats walk at the moment, except that he is doing a particularly long version of the route.  Not only is he doing the LEJOG walk, but he is also trying to do as many of the Long Distance paths along the way, and will finish off by walking along the length of the North West coast of Scotland.  Anyway, I forget how far exactly he will have walked when he’s finished, needless to say it is a very long way and I admire him a lot for taking it on.

Along his route he has arranged to meet up with various friends to keep him company along sections, me being one such friend.  So off I headed to do two days of walking with him from Hay-on-Wye to Kington (15miles) and then on to Knighton (13miles).  This of course would be great training for me as I prepare for my imminent long walk (although pretty miniscule compared to Tony’s epic journey) from St Bees to Kirkby Stephen next week.

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Posted by: sweetpea | April 28, 2008

Cheesy Purple sprouting



Now is the season for Purple Sprouting Broccoli, or PSB as it is lovingly known, in fact we are well into the season.  I’ve been picking fresh young shoots for a few weeks now, and I’m hoping to get several more weeks out of them yet, although it is my first season of PSB so I have no idea how long they will crop for.

Now, I love PSB on its own……it’s one of those vegetables that has such a fantastic flavour that you don’t really need to do anything other than steam it. However I came across a recipe in the Observer by Nigel Slater a few weeks back and as it looked interesting, I thought I’d give it a try.  It was so nice, I just had to share it with you, we omitted the pasta and had it with new potatoes instead.

So here it is:

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Posted by: sweetpea | April 25, 2008

How to make good compost….

A handful of nice and crumbly compost

You see the lovely brown crumbly stuff in my hand….well that is my lovely homemade compost, made down on the plot.

I was so excited last night when I went to investigate as I hadn’t looked at it since last year sometime and wondered what it would be like.  And believe you me it is lovely stuff…with a few added bits that haven’t finished breaking down but they get thrown back into the other compost bin.  Last night I decided to use it to dig into the soil where my peas were about to be planted out, mulch around the broad beans, and I also spread a thin layer over the asparagus bed (sure I should have done that earlier in the year but I always think better late than never!).

Mulching with compost

As my compost has turned out a treat I thought I’d write a little about how to make good compost (not that I’m an expert or anything, although I was once a York Rotter volunteer).

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Posted by: sweetpea | April 23, 2008

How to lift turf….

Turfing iron

Last Wednesday at middlethorpe hall, in between weeding and forking over sessions in the Spring garden, I learnt how to lift turf.  Now I’ve tried lifting turf in the past with a spade and found it really hard going, every turf coming out a different thickness, or even simply in an uneven lump…not ideal if you want to reuse it somewhere else in the garden!

Now, a turfing iron (which I’d never even heard of before) isn’t something you’re likely to need to use often in your own garden, but it sure makes life a lot easier.   I guess it does look pretty similar to a spade, the main difference being the shape of the blade and the angle of the blade.  It’s blade is shaped a bit like a heart, and is flat as opposed to the gentle curve a spade blade has.  The blade is positioned at an angle to the long handle so that when used properly the blade can simply be pushed along the ground.

So how do you use a turfing iron?  Well first of all you need to use a half-moon to mark out squares of turf about a foot square, they need to be of a suitable size to lift with the blade of the iron.  Then you just simply use the turfing iron to slide under each turf in turn using a back and forth motion a little at a time, pushing against the end of the handle.  You can make the turf as thick as you like just adjust the depth at which you insert the turfing iron.  Because the turfing iron has a flat blade it simply glides under the turf cutting through the soil and roots to give you a smooth surface, which makes it much easier to reuse the turf elsewhere.

Posted by: sweetpea | April 23, 2008

Something for the peas…..

Last night after work I popped to the lottie to enjoy the last bit of sunshine we had yesterday.  The peas I have at home are doing well and are rearing to be planted outdoors, so I thought it was about time I put up some kind of support for them to clamber up. I’d been mulling over this for the past week as last year I used ‘pea netting’ but found it a real pain to use as it got so tangled up.  Anyhow, on Sunday I spotted another kind of pea netting at the garden centre, one which was a grid of larger sized holes, and more like what I’d been thinking along the lines of.  On the packed it also showed how to create a support, so I decided to use it as the basis for my support.

The support I put up basically consisted of 3 canes as the frame (2 sides and one along the top), and then 2 canes at each end to act as supports for the upright canes.  I then tied the netting to the top pole, and then to both side uprights, and finally pegged it to the ground using tent pegs.  I think it looks great, and hopefully the peas will like it too. 

Pea support

I think I will do the same thing for my sweet peas, not sure about my climbing beans yet.

Posted by: sweetpea | April 21, 2008

Seed sowing update

Over the past week I have gotten a little carried away with my seed sowing. Some things I think I’ve sown a little late (toms) and others possibly a little early (courgettes and cucs)… but at the moment I’m having to sow whenever I can find a spare 10 mins or so.  I know that the toms will catch up and the others may just need watching that they don’t get pot bound before it’s warm enough to plant them out towards the end of May.

So here’s what I’ve been sowing:


(might have overdone it with 5 seeds of each, but you never can tell how successful germination will be!)

  • Broad Ripple Yellow Currant (Heritage variety)
  • Orange Banana
  • Red Cherry
  • Gardener’s Delight (an old favourite)
  • Principe Bourghese
  • Purple Calabash (saved seed from last year, the only one that survived the dreaded blight)
  • Sunbelle
  • San Marzano


(4 seeds of each, hoping some won’t germinate or I’ll be wondering what to do with all those spare courgettes again!)

  • All Green Bush courgette
  • Gold Rush courgette
  • Rugosa Friulana courgette
  • Pattison White patti pan
  • Waltham Butternut squash
  • Crystal Lemon cucumber
  • Crystal Apple cucumber (not entirely sure if these last 2 are the same thing!)


(sown in half-seed trays, 1 row of each)

  • Purple Sprouting broccoli
  • Late Purple Sprouting broccoli
  • Ottobrino Autumn Romanesco cauliflower
  • Ormskirk Savoy cabbage
  • Blusta Kohl Rabi
  • Delicately Purple Kohl Rabi
  • Sutherland Kale
  • Nero di Toscana Kale



(sown thinly in pots)

  • Jaune de Poitou leek
  • Bleu de Solaise leek


(sown in half-seed trays)

  • Allsorts lettuce
  • Little gem lettuce
  • Can can lettuce
  • Romaine lettuce
  • White Lisbon Spring onion



(sown individually in modules or in seed tray)

  • Devoy Beetroot (Heritage variety)
  • Kestrel beetroot
  • White beetroot
  • Chioggia beetroot
  • Bright Lights chard



(sown a small pinch per module…probably would have been better in a seed tray but didn’t realize how small the seeds would be!)

  • Antirrhinum Majus or Giant Snap Dragon


…..and one last thing……..

I treated myself to 3 blueberry bushes over the weekend. Not entirely sure of the varieties as they are called Julio, Agusto and Septa (or something similar) but I suspect these are just ‘cute’ names for marketing purposes.  However apparently they should provide a long harvesting season.  Just need to buy some acid compost now and find some suitable containers.

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