The most wonderful time of the year..

Well, it has been quite a long time since I last made a blog post. I have been quite busy over the last few months decorating my mothers house, and that alongside a busy couple of months at work meant that this blog has been left .. so I am sorry for that. 

That being said, I am coming back to the world of blogging at a lot of peoples favourite time of year – Christmas! 

I always like to use this period as a great excuse to get my DIY on! I often make gifts, spend my evenings baking festive goodies, or making decorations, and this year is no different! 

At the current moment in time, I am typing this with the lovely smell of Christmas cake cooking in the oven. I have never made one before, and actually don’t particularly like Christmas cake to eat, but there is nothing more enjoyable then trying something new! 

Hopefully it comes out well, and I will try and get some pictures of it when its out (I am rubbish and didn’t take any of it while I was making the mix) 

For now – I want to wish you all a lovely December, and whatever you do over Christmas, have a great time! 

Build your own greenhouse – Part 3

Build your own greenhouse – Part 3

This week I had some help from family again, and it has really made a big difference! My aunt has some good experience of DIY projects, and with her guidance I was able to make some important decisions about how I was going to construct the greenhouse.

The first decision I made, was how the frame would sit.

Because of the way I want the plastic-panes to eventually sit in the frame, a lot of the basic design was predetermined  – but the biggest decision of the day was how the bottom would be fixed to the sides.

I had previously pre-cut the four bottom planks, but i hadn’t really thought about how the four corner posts would join to the bottom. If I didn’t want to re cut the planks the posts would sit against the inside corner, creating a sort of lip – which isn’t something I wanted. Instead, I would prefer having the wall of the greenhouse sitting flush, so we re measured how long I wanted the overall greenhouse to be, and then re-cut the bottom planks accordingly. Where I’m using reclaimed wood, not all of the posts are the same width, so the length of the bottom planks would need to adjusted individually to allow the overall length to match.

This then helped with the decision of how we were going to fix them all together –  again, due to the fact I am using reclaimed wood, the thickness made it hard to use screws, so we decided to use brackets. (brackets look like sheets of metal, that are used with nails, when you hammer the nail in, it causes the metal to ‘bite’ into the wood, and therefore holds it together tightly – the more nails you use, the stronger the join).

It was also at this point that we worked out what wood could actually be used for the main structure, and what supplies I would have to go and purchase. We were able to use reclaimed wood for thebottom and the four main posts, but I didn’t have long enough timber to use for the inner posts or the roof, so when visiting the local DIY store I picked up 10 x stick timber which was on offer for £2.57 each. I also took the opportunity to check out pricing for plastic sheeting (my first years plan to help spread the over all cost) and the congregated plastic for the roof.

Once we had all the supplies we needed, it was time to start building.

We used one 3in screw in each join, just to keep it held together tightly, then used the brackets to secure them all. Once the greenhouse is fully constructed, I will go along and tidy up the joins, cutting and bending any overhanging brackets.

While sorting all of the above, it also became clear that one of my pre-laid slabs needed moving – something I was not looking forward to! But with four of us working on the project it didn’t take too long. Two of us started building one of the walls while the other two moved the slab.

All in all, we only actually spent a couple of hours building so only managed to cut and construct one wall, however the planning is just as important as the building and now there are clear plans set in place I know we will make good progress from here on out.

In other Garden news:

I planted a raspberry plant today, and sowed some parsnip, onion and tomato seeds this morning and plan to have them out in the tunnel and trough. With the weather forecasting snow next week I’m hoping the tunnel will protect them from the worst of it. so fingers crossed!

Now that spring is just around the corner I am looking forward to the slightly warmer days and sowing my own veg from seed. Last year I stuck to buying starters which worked really well – but in the long run it would be nice to grow from seed!

 

I would love to hear from anyone thinking of buying a greenhouse, or just starting out on their homegrown adventure! Please, feel free to get in touch!

Build your own greenhouse – Part 2

Build your own greenhouse – Part 2

Phase Two is complete!

Today I completed the second phase of my little DIY project of building my own greenhouse (view phase one here) .

After the success I had last week (with the help of my family) I wanted to get this part done now, so it doesn’t delay me in the actual building of the greenhouse (I’m on a spring deadline!!)

The most important part of this stage was about not only making sure the slabs were level, but that they were level with each other as well. The timber frame will be sitting directly on these slabs (acting as a stone barrier between the frame and the ground) so if they arn’t level the frame won’t be! This can take longer than you may think as well, especially working on your own and if you have nearly no experience in this sort of thing – like me! I used some sand that had been left in the garden, which is a lot easier to deal with then the soil alone. Little by little I got them all level.

The next stage of the build is the most most exciting bit – to actually build the frame! I have a fair bit of reclaimed wood which I have been collecting in preparation of this project, so I will be building as much of it from that as I can, this is mainly to save as much money as possible, but I think I am going to end up buying some supplies to finish it.

In other news..

I managed to go to the local garden center and picked a couple of things this morning, including a 6.6 ft perma-tunnel ready for some early sowing, plenty of compost and a little ‘mushrooms growing kit’ which I mentioned in an earlier post. My other half doesn’t eat them, so this small kit should provide me with mushrooms for a while – the instructions say you can expect to get 3 harvests from this one kit which will be plenty. If they grow faster than I eat them I will put them in my dehydrator and store them for later use!

I also managed to finally do my seed order – something I have been meaning to do for some time now. I’ve only bought what seeds I need for the next few months, with the idea of spreading the cost by buying the rest nearer the time that they are needed.

I have de-weeded, turned over the soil and constructed the tunnel today as well, it always feels nice to start clearing space ready for the new years growth. I am hoping to sow seeds under the tunnel until the greenhouse is fully set up, as well as using the trough I have nearer the house (which will be used for my carrots and parsnips this year).

All in all, I’ve had a really productive weekend in the garden. This week is due to drop in temperature and there is a good chance of snow, so I’m not sure if I will be able to do much next weekend! If I can’t I will set up my mushrooms and start prepping the first lot of seeds ready to sow.

I would love to hear what you have been working on over the last few weeks in preparation for spring. Leave me a comment or send me an email. Advise is always welcome!

 

Build your own greenhouse

Build your own greenhouse

Phase One is complete

This last weekend was just beautiful! I spent some much needed time with my sister and niece (a nice start on one of my 2018 goals – see here for more on that) and after weeks and weeks of planning I finally made a start on building my greenhouse (yippee!). It was bitterly cold when we went to the seafront, and walked out as far as we could, we were wrapped up warm, and treated ourselves to a hot drink after!

Now, don’t get too excited phase one is a bit of a boring phase.. but vital! Let me explain.

The spot that I have picked to build my greenhouse is tucked nicely away behind the shed and is in a prime spot for getting lots of sunshine a large part of each day. The only problem with the spot i picked.. was it was already being used – by a big old Laurel and a lovely climber. I had already made a start on clearing the space, but with just a pair of hand cutters and a hand saw it was going to be a very slow and labour intensive job. I ended up buying a chainsaw, and this weekend was the first opportunity I had to get outside and made a real start of clearing the space up.

With such a beautiful (and surprisingly mild) day we had on Sunday I was able to get the whole area cleared! Even the stumps were either dug up or cut right down below ground level and killed off. It was a lot of work, and I had some help doing it but by finishing it all in the day means I can move on to phase two – which is making the ground level and putting down some slabs for the wooden frame to sit on (because I have decided to make my greenhouse out of a wood, I’m conscious that sitting directly on the ground will encourage rot. The plan is to have slabs just around where the frame meets the ground and then have the inside open soil).

It is at this point I have also re thought about the size I want the greenhouse to be. my original design was to have a 5 sized greenhouse (2 long sides against the wall and fence, and then 3 sides facing out) But I have since put my sensible hat on and realised that although that would look super awesome, the size of the overall greenhouse would be relatively small and as this is going to be my first attempt of building one, i should probably stick to a lot simpler designs! So goodbye cute design, hello practical rectangle design!

I would really love to hear from anyone who has build their own greenhouse, what obstacles did you come up against and what do you wish you had done differently?

Just send me a message or leave a comment!

[social_warfare buttons=”twitter, instagram”]

5 Most common myths of growing your own fruit and vegetables

5 Most common myths of growing your own fruit and vegetables

There is something truly rewarding about cooking with vegetables grown from your own garden. The produce is better in flavour than the shop alternatives and it can (in most cases) end up being a lot more cost effective, but most people still prefer to go to their local supermarket and buy off the shelf. Gardening is often seen as a hobby and some of this I believe is down to a number of long-standing myths.

Below are just the 5 most common reasons give to why they don’t get involved with growing their own.

1 . “I don’t have the time”

It is a common misconception that to have a successful vegetable garden you need to have hours available everyday to tend it. There are vegetables out there they don’t require loads of time and effort. These include Beans, Courgettes, Cucumbers and members of the Squash family.

All of these simply require good soil, sunshine and plenty of water and you will have more than enough to keep you, your family and your neighbours well stocked for the whole season. They are all pretty prolific growers and when stored in the correct way for each can easily see you through the later months too.

2 . “I don’t have the space”

People assume that to have a productive vegetable patch you need a massive garden, but this is just completely untrue! As long as you have a bit of creativity you can make any outside space work for you, a lot of people are making good use of ‘vertical gardening’. That may sound like a new age fad but its popularity is rising and it is easy to see why.

Vertical gardens can take up a lot less space, are easy to maintain and can be used to grow a number of vegetables you may not have thought possible. This sort of gardening is providing people with even the smallest amount of space the opportunity to grow their own produce.

3 . “I can’t grow anything”

No one is born knowing how to have a successful and productive garden. So the key for any beginner is to pick a couple of easy to grow varieties to start, such as courgettes, garlic and onions which only ask for sunshine, good soil and water.

If your not sure about growing something from seed, most garden centres sell starters(or plug) plants which is where they have grown them from a seed for you, so you buy the plants when they are still young usually by the trayfull. You then take those and plant them straight into your garden. This if you dont have the resources to grow from seed.

4 . “I rent / live in a flat so i can’t”

Not everyone has the ability to dig up their gardens to make vegetable patches, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t grow your own fruit and vegetables. There are so many varieties of plant that grow really well in containers – and you can use anything, from large plant pots to old barrels. Any outdoor space can be used for your container garden, as long as it has access to sunshine and you remember to water it. There are a large number of plants that thrive in the container environment; tomatoes, peppers and potatoes to name a few!

For those rented properties that don’t have access to any outdoor space, there are still ways you can grow some of the smaller varieties. You can grow fruit trees such as lemon and a wide variety of salads right there on your windowsill.

5 . “I don’t get enough sun in my garden”

Just because you garden doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, does not mean that nothing will grow! You just need to be a bit more selective with the choices you make! For example, if you are hoping to grow veg such as sweetcorn or peppers which are heavily dependant on the sunshine, you may need to re think your garden goals. However, there are plenty of plants that are forgiving in the sunshine department (this still means the path needs at least 3-6 hours of direct sunlight).Broccoli and Radishes are good examples of this, they don’t mind a bit more shade and will produce good quality produce, even if they are a tad smaller then their sun soaking counterparts.

Although gardeners tend to praise the fact their gardens get plenty of sunshine, there are some advantages to having a slightly shadier plot. For one thing, places that get high temperatures may struggle with their plants being scolded, and having full sun often means that the ground becomes dry quicker meaning more watering.

So as you can see, as long as you put your mind to it, there really isn’t anything stopping you growing your own little spot of heaven.

I would be interested to know if anyone has overcome any of the situations mentioned above and gone on to grow some truly delicious veg! Leave me a comment below!

[bctt tweet=”5 Most common myths about Growing your own”]

Starting on my garden

Now that Christmas is out of the way, it is time to start working on my garden. I have a lot of things I want to achieve this year – and a lot of it depends on the seasons.

Last year I grew a handful of things in a small patch at the top of the garden. The ground is uneven and had to be cleared of a lot of stuff that the previous owners had dumped, including old metal hangers, carpet and glass. At some point someone liked the patch, as there is a lot of good top soil there. It has just been mixed into a lot of stones. When clearing all the rubbish, and fighting back the jungle of weeds there was also old lining that had been left untended (meaning the weeds had grown on top of it and unfortunately through it) I am still fighting back the large number of weeds but i think with constant tending I am starting to win.

What was left of the vegetables grown last year has been a little forgotten about over the last few months, and what remains has been growing by itself. I have a scattering of garlic, broccoli and Brussel Sprouts. The Brussels and Broccoli had been attacked quite heavily by the caterpillars, and if I’m honest, I had written them off, leaving what was left until I could get back out and clear the patch ready for the new year, but after the weather turned colder they seem to have survived the army of ‘pillars and are doing a good job on their own.

One of the last things I did last year was to plant the garlic. They were just from bulbs that were starting to sprout in my kitchen. I didn’t want to waste them, as they were past the point of eating, so I planted them to see how they would do. My last attempt of growing garlic wasn’t amazing – they grew.. but were tiny!! strong – but small.

One of the big jobs that I want to complete this year is to change that patch into a raised bed. At the moment it is pretty unsightly, it sits right next to the house and the small patio section that we have. I would love for it to be a little tidier, and making it a raised bed will help with my homegrown garden.

Now we are more settled in our home it would be great to host some little get togethers over the warmer months, but I don’t want to have people in the garden if it looks like a mess! Our garden has so much potential – I just want it looking/working at its best!

Another large job i have planned is to build myself a little greenhouse. I have found a patch which would be ideal for it. It would get full sun, but also be tucked out the way and would be protected from the worst weather.

20180114_161422

As you can see, I have started clearing the space – there’s a climber growing along the wall and there were lourels running all the way upto the shed. So far I have cut them both back within an inch of their lives but the plan is to cut them down completely (I was due to do it this weekend, but mother nature had other ideas… mainly rain and snow!) I only had a hand saw, but with past knowledge of just how hard a job that would be – and how long it would take – I invested in a chainsaw yesterday.

The lourels run down the whole right side of our garden and along the back. They are a brilliant natural fence, but because they have been left to grow on their own, they have got way out of hand and honestly take up more space then I like. I am losing 3ft along both border lines and it makes a big difference. Another reason for me wanting them gone is they are taking up a lot of space in an area that I am planning on dedicating to chickens. (I have owned some previously and when buying this house the intention was always on getting more, it is just a case of being ready for them. There really is nothing better than fresh eggs, they are also great for left over green waste and are honestly a joy to have. I could spend hours with them)

So while the weather has its wintery-way and I am forced to stay indoors I started measuring up and designing how i wanted the greenhouse to look. I’ve made the decision to make it out of wood and hard plastic. Not the most common materials, but I like the idea of a wooden frame, on the principle that it is going to look a lot nicer and more natural. The hard plastic will be in replacement of the glass that is usually used. This is more for safety. Footballs are often sent flying into my garden, and I wanted something that wouldn’t break so easily – but it is also down to being able to customise the shape and size of the panes myself instead of having glass cut professionally and then delivered.

Once the weather clears up my first task is to cut down the trees in the way and dig them up the best I can, or kill off the roots if i can’t dig them up. Next I need to level out the ground, making the frame out of wood means I need to put something down so that the wood doesn’t rot quickly. My plan is to have either slabs, or bricks.

I already have some reclaimed treated timber which i plan to construct the main supports from. These will be screwed into the wall of the shed to add stability and then build from there.

Another big job on my list is to clear out some of the rubbish that has been left from when we originally tidied the garden. Alot of it is going to have to be taken down the tip, but there is a lot of burnables including the left overs from a large ivy plant that was left to grow up an electrical pole in the garden.

I bought an incinerator with the idea of burning as much as I can, and saving us having to take natural waste to the skip when we don’t need to. Ash can also be good for soil and compost heaps if the pH levels are off. It is also easier to get rid of then bags of branches and logs.

Lastly, over the next few weeks I need to stock up on any seeds i need for the spring sowing. I have most of the first batch, either from purchasing over winter or by finding my stash that I saved from previous grown plants. What i have left to get I will be buying from my local garden centres or my D.T. Brown Seed and Plant Catalogue. Hopefully by the time spring is here, I will have my greenhouse ready for some serious vegetable growing.

If anyone has any advise about starting my 2018 vegetable garden, leave me a comment. I would love to hear how other people are getting ready for the growing season.

and you’re welcome along for the ride!

Dreaming of the Good Life..

Now i enjoy Netflix, Amazon and Spotify as much as the next person (and i use them all) but there is something about sitting down to a home cooked meal where the veg was grown just a couple of meters from your table, or curling up to watch a film under a blanket you made.

I have always prefered a homemade, unique gift to something that everyone from your friend to the stranger down the road owns. I’m not saying that i don’t buy new things from the highstreet, i do! I just don’t get quite as much enjoyment from it compared to when i watch someone open a present that I spent the last few day making, or the glow of pride I get when someone asks where i got my oven gloves, or the snood my niece wears.

I think at heart I’m Barbara Good from ‘The Good Life’. I may be able to go and buy everything i need from a shop, but why would i want to, when i can grown it right there in my back garden? After a busy day at work, where the pressure is high and the hours are slow, i crave the simplier and quiet world of my garden or craft room.

That being said, I’m not a homesteading queen or a diy goddess – I’m just someone who likes to get creative, and get my hands dirty! For the first time, I have my own space to enjoy and learn all the wonders that comes with growing your own, improving your home – but most of all.. enjoying the journey!

This blog will be companion as i learn how enjoy growing my own back garden allotment (fingers crossed) and make more homemade beauties that friends, family and hopefully myself can enjoy!

and you’re welcome along for the ride!