Friday, 30 September 2016

FREE ROSES for Your Garden!

It is a well known fact that I am a greedy gardener.  Once I find a plant I love I just want more and more.  This is especially true when it comes to some of the more delicate coloured roses like this one,  Chandos Beauty.  Yes, she has a few holes in her but it is nearly October.

Earlier this summer, I was deadheading the roses and had a thought, since I was pruning off bits why not try to root some of the cuttings.  

Now, I am not going to tell you that my success rate was great.  Half of the cuttings died...but half LIVED!  Not only did they live, some are actually thriving!  The Chandos Beauty cutting already has a new flower bud.

If you have a special rose in your garden and you'd love to have more, why not try to root some cuttings.  It's pretty easy really,  here are the How To's taken from Gardeners'

You can take cuttings from any type of rose you choose, but just make sure you select long, strong, healthy stems from this season's growth, not old wood.
Make the cuttings 25cm long, cutting above a bud at the top to remove the shoot tip and below one at the base. Leave one leaf at the top and remove all the lower leaves.
Dip the base of the cutting into rooting hormone mixture. Insert several cuttings into a large pot of gritty compost.
Water well, place the pot in a shaded spot and leave until cuttings have rooted. Keep the compost moist. Pot up rose plants individually when well rooted, probably next summer.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

First Poly Tunnel Harvest

Life is a funny thing.  What you like and what you think you like are often two different things.  Take our poly tunnel, for example, it was already on our allotment when we got the plot and I cursed it for being a blot on the landscape. Now it is one of my favourite things.

In the beginning, the poly tunnel was full of weeds, dried up tomato plants, and every kind of bug you can imagine.  The infestation was so bad that a bite on Andy's arm required a trip to A&E for treatment.  Now it is filled with vigorous young plants.  Today I harvested my first crop, this lovely chard.  It will be interesting to see how far into the autumn-winter season we will be able to enjoy fresh vegetables from the plot.  

Friday, 2 September 2016

Fried Apples

There are some dishes that aren't pretty but, boy, are they good.  This recipe for fried apples is one of those of dishes. 

This time of year all sorts of apples are ripening and falling from the trees.   It really doesn't matter what kind of apple you use.  I used two different kinds of apples from my little espalier apple trees in my back garden.  One kind cooked down into a rich pulp and the other held on to it's 'slice' shape, combined they were delicious. 

This is the perfect recipe for using up those less than perfect apples, you know the kind, windfalls with a bruise, a bug bite, or any other kind of blemish.  So collect a few apples and let's get frying:


1 1/2 to 2 cups apples - peeled, cored, and sliced  (I used 5 medium apples)
2-3 Tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1 or 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (adjust according to tartness of apples)
1 or 2 Tablespoons white sugar 
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Melt butter in a medium frying pan. Toss the apples in the lemon juice.  Add the apples and cook until most of the butter is absorbed by the apples.  The apple slices should be JUST tender, not completely cooked.   Add the white and brown sugar, cooking until the sugars have become syrupy.  Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle over the cinnamon and stir to distribute the cinnamon.  Serve hot!

Fried apples are lovely over french toast or pancakes or served warm over vanilla ice cream.

For an extra special treat, spoon fried apples over a warm scone to make a delicious short cake.  Don't forget the cream!  

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Don't Forget the Apples!

I don't know how it happened but apple picking time has come around already. It took me completely by surprise.  It shouldn't have, the apples on the little trees in our back garden are ALWAYS ripe on the last day of August or the first day of September.

Of course there is always one 'cling on' in every crowd, that one last apple which refuses to let go.

So... in the next day or two I'll give him a little wiggle to see if he is ready to let go.  

In the meantime, I have plenty of apples to enjoy.  If you have apple trees don't forget to test them in the next day or two.  You may need to do some picking too. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Chocolate Courgette Cake

Some people call them zucchini. Some call them courgettes, when they get big they are marrows.  Whatever you call them it's that time of the season when everyone who has even one squash plant now has a glut of fruit. 

No matter how you try, you can't eat them fast enough and they JUST KEEP COMING!  Here's a recipe we used to make in the States where zucchini would take over the world if you give them half a chance. 


Preheat the oven to 350F/170C.  Butter and flour a square cake pan and set it to one side while you make the cake batter.

1 cup plain all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 medium eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup grated courgette (aka zucchini or marrow)

Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir them with a large spoon to combine them.  Add the eggs, oil, vanilla, and grated courgette and stir until all of the ingredients are well combined.  Do not overmix .... this batter doesn't need to be beaten.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Leave the cake in the tin to cool.  

Now, you can simply sprinkle some icing sugar over the cake and serve it or you can add this simple but delicious chocolate icing. 


1 ounce butter
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1-2 Tablespoons milk
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) icing sugar

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add the cocoa powder and cook over low heat for about a minute.  Remove from the heat, stir in the milk.  Add the icing sugar and beat with a spoon until the icing is smooth and glossy.  Pour the warm icing over the cake and gently smooth it out to the edges of the cake. When the icing has set a bit you are ready to serve.  

I suppose there are worse problems than having too many zucchini...especially when you can have CAKE!  

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Plot Progress Report

One month ago today we took over the much neglected allotment plot that is located directly behind our back garden fence.  You may recall it looked like this when we started.....  pretty scary! 

This is how the plot looks today.....

There is still A LOT of work to do, as you can see, but we are getting there... once spade full of dirt at a time.   

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Taking Lavender Cuttings or Hedging One's Bets

Yesterday I managed to enrage about half the bees in East Devon,  I pruned back our overgrown lavender hedge.  It had to be done.  All the flowers had suffered from the heat and drought and besides, it was just time to do it!

As the mound of spent flowers and fragrant foliage grew around my feet it dawned on me that I should be saving the most viable branches for cuttings. I mean, have you seen the price of lavender plants when shopping at the garden centre?  The multi-packs of small plants start at £7 for six little sprigs.  I was standing on a small fortune!  

I collected a big handful of cut lavender boughs and plonked them into a jar of water.  This morning I filled a couple of deep plastic trays with compost and set to work taking cuttings.  Now, I know my method isn't how a proper gardener would do it and this will send a real horticulturalist around the bend but with a little luck some of these sad little sprigs will take root.

If only a handful grow into proper lavender plants it will have been worth the time, effort, and cost of the compost.... not to mention how proud I will be to have grown my own new lavender hedge.  

CLICK HERE to learn how to take lavender cuttings properly.