Last month I attended my first ever seed swap, Hereford seed swap to be precise.

Having never attended an event like this I was a little apprehensive as to how they worked. Luckily my right hand man accompanied me (and held my bag while I browsed seeds!).

It was pouring with rain on the day and the car park was full so we parked a little way away and ran to The Courtyard where the event was taking place.

The Swap

Upon entering we were greeted with a few small stalls selling gardening related items. In the centre of the room was a small round table with instructions on taking part in the seed swap and a donation bucket (did I mention the event is volunteer and donation driven?).

After reading the instructions carefully we proceeded towards the ring of tables where the seeds were. The first item on the agenda is to give any seeds you have to go into the swap to one of the attendants behind the tables. They will then distribute them to the correct areas with other similar seeds.

I think the main idea is for gardeners to swap and share seeds they have grown and collected themselves and try growing something a little new but, I’m afraid I’ve not mastered seed saving (or even tried yet to be honest!) so I took a few seed packets from my collection that I wouldn’t be growing this year.

The friendly gentleman behind the tables thanked me and told me to help myself to anything I liked. The tables were filled with little brown and newspaper packets holding everything from salad leaves to flowers.

I had made a list beforehand of things I wanted to try to get:

  1. Sweetcorn
  2. Peppers
  3. Parsnips

The first stop on my list was a large bag labelled sweetcorn. There were small empty brown envelopes for you to help yourselves to as many seeds as you required from the bigger bags. So I labelled mine up and took a handful of seeds.

As I moved round I spotted a packet of kale seeds that I quickly snapped up. The final additions to my seed haul were a small pack of parsnips and chillies. The only item on my list I didn’t get were peppers.

Unexpected perks

I don’t know why but I wasn’t expecting there to be anything other than the seed swap itself  however, whilst I was browsing a group of people at the end of the room began to sing, it really was a beautiful atmosphere.

There were several stalls with tools and plants and even a few information stalls. One stall was a tool sharpening man, if only I’d known he’d have been there!  I sure hope he’s there next year!

I have added seed saving to my list of gardening goals this year and look forward to next years seed swap event. I encourage anyone that has access to something like this to get involved.

Has anyone else attended an event like this? I’d love to hear your stories.

Wow! It’s been two months since I last did a blog post, sorry all! I’ve been stupidly busy with work and exams but that’s all done with now and the garden is starting to flourish! So here’s a garden update (mostly in pictures):

Garden update

Successes:

  • Strawberries are looking brilliant and I’ve had a few handfuls of fruit
  • Peas are starting to get big with a few pods that will be ready in a couple of days
  • Runner beans are gigantic and flowering, it won’t be long till were eating runners with every meal!
  • First little green tomato spotted in the green house
  • One Jalapeño eaten (apparently it was VERY hot he he)
  • Two large beetroot almost ready for harvesting
  • Carrots are actually growing now (really must thin these out)

Failures:

  • Parsnips are a complete no show and are overrun with weeds
  • Peppers do not appear to have got any bigger fingers crossed for them
  • Cayenne chilli plants do not look very healthy although if the Jalapenos are hot maybe this is for the best
  • Cucumbers have not grown. At all.

The raised bed

2015 - June garden update 2-12015 - June garden updateRaised bed contains peas, runner beans, carrots, peppers, leeks, onions, beetroot and spinach

Strawberries

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In the greenhouse

2015 - June garden update 32015 - June garden update 82015 - June garden update 42015 - June garden update 9When I checked the greenhouse yesterday I discovered my first small green tomato!

Non veggie plants

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How is your garden getting along?

We’ve been so busy this month and last weekend was no exception. Me and the OH had a weekend away visiting some of his family up in Preston. It’s a really lovely part of the world and there’s plenty to do around there.

Barton Grange

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It has to be said that Saturday was probably my ideal day, we spent the morning looking round a garden centre called Barton Grange, winner of the Garden Centre Association award for Best Destination Garden Centre 2014.

It had everything. There was a brilliant cookware shop with every gadget and gizmo you could ever think to need for the Kitchen, there was homeware and plants, BBQ’s and Furniture, a huge selection of plants, flowers and vegetables and a top notch butchers store. Oh not forgetting the Cafe – Fantastic blueberry scones!

Everything was beautifully presented; just look at some of the displays:

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I am absolutely in love with the watering can flower pot display.  In all honesty my poor photography skills (I was VERY excited) just don’t do it justice. Unfortunately for me most things were a little out of my price range.

Saturday afternoon

On our way back to the house we stopped at another littler garden centre (with prices much more up my street), i’m afraid i didn’t catch the name of it and i didn’t take a single photo. I loved it that much i didn’t even think to stop and snap a pic.

There were several large, long glass greenhouses filled with benches with rows of neatly potted flowers and veggie plants. It’s run by a gentleman that does all of the planting himself (I saw him in action).  He even puts together hanging baskets that you can purchase.

All the signs are handmade and theres plenty of fresh produce for sale in the shop. I tell you i was beside myself, it was without a doubt one of my favourite gardening stores, it’s a shame its so far away.

I brought myself two flower plants; a Madeira and a Scaevola at a bargain price of £2.30 and back home we headed.

The afternoon was spent planting out vegetables and potting up flowers, whilst drinking a chilled glass of wine – Pure bliss. How could it get any better than that you ask? Well we were carefully watched by the neighbouring Alpacka

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There can’t possibly be more

We cycled to the pub for a drink, we had a BBQ, we made the most AMAZING jam doughnuts and indulged in a beef roast. I even managed to get a fair bit of my revision for Uni done.

When i got home i discovered there were signs of growth on everything i’d planted the other week and my strawberry plants are starting to flower.

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What did everyone get up to on the weekend?

I spent some time this weekend potting up strawberries in my new planter, while doing so I came up my favourite 5 tips for growing strawberries that I wanted to share with you.

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Here’s my 5 tips for growing strawberries:

1. Water regularly
Its really important to ensure your strawberries get enough water to ensure as they need it to bulk up. If you think you’ve water enough, water a little more! Water every day through dry spells and avoid the plant itself to ensure your fruit doesn’t rot.

2. Sunshine
Strawberries are sun loving plants and need to be in a sunny spot to ensure the fruits ripen nicely.

3. Protect from birds
The birds love strawberries as much as we do so ensure you adequately protect your precious fruit. Most people use fruit cages or netting to cover the plants.

4. Harvest regularly
At the height of the season strawberries will ripen fast therefore, regular picking ensures you get the best out of your strawberries. Ensure fruit is bright red all over before picking. Strawberries are fantastic straight from the plant, I’ll also be posting some of my favourite strawberry recipes soon including Strawberry Muffins.

5. 3 year rotation
Ideally you’ll be replacing your strawberry plants every 3 years to ensure the best crops. The easiest way to do this is pot on the ‘Runners’ that your existing plants create. Runners are the stems that your plants will send out over your patch or container. They will then root down and produce a new plant. By potting on these runners you can pick the strongest and healthy plants to continue your crop with and best of all it’s free!

My strawberry planter

2015 - 5 tips for growing strawberriesBeautiful weekend – for more on the purchase

I’ve been struggling to decide what to do with my two clearance strawberry plants  when I stumbled across a pop up strawberry planter I received the year before last. Result! When I popped it open I was really impressed, it was a lot smaller and sturdier than I was expected. It holds up to 50 litres  of compost and can hold up to 8 plants.

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I started filling it up and popped my two plants in (which was a little difficult as they had quite large roots and quite small pockets), I was so pleased with how it looked and held up I rushed straight to the local garden centre for more plants. I managed to get 6 strong, healthy looking strawberry plants for £5.99, bargain if you ask me! Look how fab my planter looks now:

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If your interested in something like mine I found this one over on amazon, but I’m sure you’ll find tons if you search pop up strawberry planter.

What are you favourite tips for growing strawberries?

It may not surprise you that I’m a big fan of a long weekend, but this long weekend was particularly good.

I spent a day with my mum, a day with the OH, some time with friends and had an Easter meal out with family. I then spent the entire of Monday out in the garden in the gorgeous sunshine, I even got little sunburnt! In April can you believe it?

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I got so much done on Monday, you’ll have to bear with me while I talk through it.

Productive day in the garden

A few weekends ago I removed the bin bag protection on my raised bed. I constructed a basic threshold with some netting in an attempt to keep the cats away – this failed. So as you can imagine the first part of my day was spent removing cat poo from the bed AGAIN.

The good news is my moaning has prompted the OH to offer to make me a proper fence as soon as he has time, yay!

The Raised bed

Once that was done I started to put up the support for the peas and runner beans that I’m planning on planting. I wanted to ensure I had enough bamboo canes, I will need a couple more as a few snapped.

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You’ll notice I’ve also sectioned my bed up ready for my square foot planting plan! I’m very excited as it looks so organised.

Within the bed I’ve sowed the first lot of seeds for:

  • Carrots – Both Early Nantes 5 and Autumn King 2
  • Leeks – Both Lyon and Elefant
  • Parsnips
  • Perpetual spinach
  • Beetroot

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I’ll be successionally sowing all of these to ensure plants are ready to eat at different times.

The Greenhouse

In the afternoon I set about potting on some of the seedlings that needed more room such as the cucumbers and various chilli and pepper plants. I’ve kept the weaker seedlings for the time being to see if they improve, if they do I’ll be taking them over to my Grampy to have first pick as he’s been moving house and had no time to start anything off.

I sowed some runner beans and some peas into pots, they could have gone straight out into the garden but I know well enough that this nice weather may not necessarily last as long as I’d like so they’re inside for the time being.

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Some spring onions and salad leaves have been sown into troughs. I may see if I can bring them over to the back door for easy access as I’m much more likely to use them if they’re very easy to get at.

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My onions have finally shown themselves and should be ready to plant out in a few weeks.

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Lastly I sowed a few sunflowers, I may have mentioned before that they’re my favourite flower. I’m growing a short variety like I did last year as they were beautiful!

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I also started to tidy the place up, it was filled with pots and planters that were sheltering from the winter weather and  a ton of leaves had got in. It’s looking a lot better and I even washed the walls down (the ones I could reach anyway!).

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What did everyone else get done this over the long weekend?