Monday 29 April 2013

Help Watering

I'm still not feeling right today and I think two days of drinking re hydration salts and eating rich tea biscuits have sapped my energy somewhat. But I did manage to drag myself outside to do some watering.
Daddies little helper!
It's essential when you plant trees as late as I have this year to keep them well watered for the first few months and in any dry spells for the first year. It has rained a bit over the last few days but not enough to soak the roots, so me and the little girl donned our wellies and went watering trees.
Well she filled her watering can with soil but I'm sure it won't be long until she gets the idea!

Sunday 28 April 2013

Fig Cuttings Have Taken

Back in August I posted about taking some cuttings from my mothers large fig tree
Well out of the four cuttings I took, two seem to be sprouting new leaves. A 50% success rate for a first try is pretty good I think. I'll leave these in this pot for a while longer yet to get established before I move them on.
I've also found a massive fig tree/bush at a friends house so I'm going to try air layering (as suggested by Texan) later in the year with those - Anyone have any advice/experience on air layering?

No Gardening Today

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I'm gutted today. I should be out gardening, planting out seeds and young plants but I've got a bit of an upset stomach (and that's a bit of an understatement!)
Peas and onion sets ready to go out
 Luckily I've been doing a little each night in the week, so this wasted day won't put me too far behind.
Parsnips, carrots, beetroot all just waiting to germinate
Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on the bank holiday next weekend!

Thursday 25 April 2013

Standing Firewood

I know it's too late to be planting trees, but they were half price so I couldn't resist.
Tree planting kit!
I 've decided to add to our little coppice area in the bottom of the second field. I wanted to plant some more trees for future firewood and have a few fruiting trees mixed in. We've already got sweet chestnut, Rowen and hazel planted.
To add to it this year I ordered 10 common hazel, 1 purple filbert, 1 kentish cob, 1 paper bark birch, 2 cherry plums, morrello cherry and a Stella cherry (I also ordered some more fruiting root stocks). I also moved a couple of flowering cherries I had in pots that I couldn't find a home for down to this area.
Marking spots to plant trees with bamboo
Having this little area set aside in the one field will be great for wildlife and if I add a little every year and manage it well then we should be able to have some firewood from it in the future as well as a regular supply of fruit and nuts (if I can fight the squirrels)
I'm hoping it will be come a miniature "forest" garden area, I've also added a gooseberry cutting I had spare, alpine strawberries and a blackcurrant. I will be adding bluebells, wild garlic and other herbs as the trees start to get established. The trouble is I need to fence it off and I've no idea how much space to leave for future growth of this area trees are more of a passion then grass at the moment!

Tuesday 23 April 2013


There's not much I miss about our old house. Only two things really, it was a bigger house and we used to have a dishwasher. God how we've missed that dishwasher!
These two pipes have changed my life!
Our current kitchen is tiny with very little space for anything extra (I think I've posted pictures on here before showing just how small it is) but I decided enough was enough and I was going our get the dishwasher back!
To do this the freezer now lives in the dining room. And there is a lot of pipes through some unsightly holes under the kitchen units.
But that doesn't matter because now I don't have to spend every night scrubbing dishes and baby paraphernalia. It's changed the kitchen as now we don't have dishes stacked on the side or drying in the rack giving us more work surface. The plan in the future is to extend to give ourselves a proper sized kitchen diner but in the mean time installing two pipes through some kitchen units has made me very happy!

Monday 22 April 2013

30 Ways To Save A Pound

Lots of blogs I follow have been doing the "30 ways to save a pound challenge" from Money supermarket so I thought I'd give it a go (although I've no idea if I'm too late to enter).
So here are mine (no order to them):

1. Install a clothes airier in the wasted space over the stairs to save using the tumble dryer - we've hardly used the dryer all winter.

2. Install a clothes airier outside in the garden to dry your clothes in the summer.

3. Don't buy the ready bagged bags of veg from the supermarket, it normally works out more expensive per kg than bagging up your own and you only buy what you need, so none goes to waste.

4. If you've got a mortgage and savings then pay more off on your mortgage (if you can). The interest you get on your savings is normally nowhere near what it costs you to have it on your mortgage.

5. If you have children join parenting clubs (like Boots) as they have lots of money off vouchers and deals.

6. Bulk buy sundry items for your car, like bulbs and screen wash, etc off eBay. It works out much cheaper than if you have to buy one when you need it from Halfords, in fact you can normally buy a pack of 10 for the same money as a pair!

7. Plant some fruit trees - it may take a couple of years to get your money back but if you buy a fruit tree from Aldi for £5 you only need to grow a few bags of apples and you're in profit.

8. Learn to take cuttings from plants so you can propagate from plants that friends and family have rather than buying your own.

9. Start eating nettles! Cooked they taste like spinach and they're free!

10. Learn about other wild food, it's free, grown naturally and some of it tastes amazing (be safe though).

11. Buy unbranded paracetamol and aspirin, it has the same active ingredients and costs a fraction of the price.

12. If you read a lot start buying books from car boots - they normally cost anywhere between 20p and £2.

13. Never buy the latest best seller, you will always find it at a fraction of the price at a car boot the next summer!

14. If you have a young child or baby make a list of the items you need and start shopping at the car boot sales. We've brought some of our baby's clothes at a fraction of the price they cost in the shops and some haven't even been used.

15. Always have a bottle of water with you so it saves you having to buy a drink.

16. Check your oil and water on your car every week. It's not difficult to do and it might save an expensive repair if either of these run out.

17. If you have a baby then freeze any leftover mash or veg in ice cube trays to make a healthy meal for them letter in the week.

18. Grow your own herbs - this is the cheapest way to make a simple meal taste amazing.

19. Buy Christmas presents throughout the year, that way you spread the cost and you can buy when things are on offer.

20. Have a meat free meal a week. this always works out cheaper than a meal with meat.

21. Start keeping chickens! After the set up costs you can normally make a small profit  by selling your spare eggs (or at least break even) and have fresh eggs for yourself.

22. Take a picnic on days out.

23. Stop buying magazines. The information you want to read is  normally on the internet for free and failing that books work out cheaper for the sheer about of reading time in them.

24. Bake a cake. Much cheaper than buying a nice one and they normally taste better (also a great way to entertain a child on a rainy afternoon).

25. Grow tomatoes and cucumbers. You don't need much room and it's so much cheaper than buying them (you can freeze any you have left, or make a chutney).

26. Make your own sandwiches for work

27. Don't buy sliced ham for sandwiches. A joint of ham works out cheaper - normally you  can have a meal and all your sandwiches and it will taste much better.

28. Grow your own salad in a grow bag. When we plant one up it normally keeps us with plenty of salad for a month or more.

29. Don't be governed by the sell by date on food. Always smell and taste it to see if its gone off before you throw it away, normally most things lasts much longer than it says on the packet or tin.

30. Shop around. Use the internet to find the lowest price of any items you want. Also don't impulse buy

I'm sure now I've written this I'll think of loads more tips to save money but this is a good start!

Sunday 21 April 2013

Pigeon Racing

Don't worry I've not taken up another hobby!
 Pigeons are not normally an animal I'd say I like, in fact I'm normally trying to keep them away from what I'm doing. But A friend at work is mad into pigeon racing. He eats, sleeps and breathes it. His partner says that if he thinks any more about it he'd grow feathers.
I guess this is how I've got roped into helping him train them. As I live furthest from him, and on the same line in which his club race from, I'm taking his pigeons home once or twice a week letting them go. It's amazing really, it's about an hours drive between us and the pigeons will do the distance in around half an hour (depending on the wind).
Scientist still aren't a 100% sure how these pigeons find there way back. I can see how it would be an interesting hobby, all the different ways of training them and breeding them, knowing that seconds count in a race, pigeons racing at 60mph.
Sadly this old pastime is dying out, there's too much against the modern pigeon keeper now and in twenty years I'll be surprised if there's any left doing it, just more people playing computer games.

Tuesday 16 April 2013


Our first year using wood to provide some of our heat has shown me how woefully under prepared we were!
Quite a bit of wood lying around that needs splitting and storing
 Luckily we had my tree surgeon brother to bail us out and provide (give) us more seasoned wood when we needed it. The trouble is I had plenty of wood cut from trees that we'd felled, I just didn't do anything with it. Chucked outside in a heap it isn't going to heat anyone.
This year I'm going to make more of an effort with using wood fuel. Every night I'm splitting some wood and storing it in an old shed I absolutely hate, but I also need to finish cleaning out this shed from the last people who lived here (anyone want a workout gym from the 70's or a collection of plastic snooker trophies?). The shed is falling down slowly but it should last long enough to season some firewood for a winter or two.
I think by the time I've split and stacked all the wood and the wood I get from work as kindling, we should have enough for a few winters.
This sheds very existence offends me, but while I've got it I might as well use it
 As well as this I'm going to look into putting in a wood burner in the summer as our open fire is just too wasteful of wood. So tips and advice on wood burners will be gratefully taken! Also doing this will let us lay out the sitting room differently, which in turn might help some of our space issues.
Who can tell me what the top tool is called?
How do other people tackle the cutting, splitting and storing of their firewood? And what time of year do you normally do all of these things?

Sunday 14 April 2013

Planting A Little Tree Nursery

In a break between April showers today I managed to get my grafted trees planted.
My tree nursery bed
 I dug over a small patch of the veg garden yesterday with the rotovator so planting was fairly easy. I added in some compost and bone meal to give them the best start then set about planting them.
I spaced them one foot a part (300mm) in a row and my rows were about two foot apart. These trees are only going to stay in this bed for one or maybe two years before they are big enough to be up dug up and transplanted somewhere else. I used a short length of bamboo to mark each tree as I know what I'm like when I'm wondering around the garden in the dark!
I plan to keep the weeds down on this bed by mulching with straw as the last thing I want is another area to weed, but having them in the veg garden means they are safe from rabbits!
Thanks to compost woman for this cutting!
I was a little annoyed while planting as I seem to have lost the label off one tree, so now I need to figure out which one it is!
What am I going to do with all these trees? Some I'll keep and grow, some I'll give to friends and family once they're established and hopefully I'll sell one or two (although not the one with the missing label!).

Saturday 13 April 2013


I've finally managed to buy a rotovator that I think will be up to the job.
My new work horse
It's a Lombardini Diesel powered rotovator. This means it will run all day on a lot less fuel than a petrol powered one and give good power.
I did have a quick try of it tonight (although it was raining) and it made a great job of the strip of soil in the veg garden with very little effort (but it's not easy to start). The clay soil didn't even slow it down!
I've got no other attachments for it yet, but looking at it I think it can have a cutter bar (or Allan Scyth) fitted and there's a hole for a tow bar. I'm guessing I could make it into a little garden tractor if I wanted, and make a trailer up for it for lugging firewood and things around the small holding.
I'm hoping that by having a good rotovator it should speed things up in the garden and let me concentrate on more important jobs. And although this makes me more dependant on oil it does mean that I should have more time available.
Does anyone else use a rotovator for their garden/allotment or do you prefer to dig it all over by hand?

Thursday 11 April 2013

Propagating An Old Apple Tree

One of the grafts I did was to propagate this old apple tree.
Beautiful old tree

This is in my neighbours field where I have been given permission to go shooting. Apparently the field used to all orchards planted up with Newton Wonder, this is the last tree that survives from that orchard and it's seen better days.
I thought it would be nice to take a cutting from this tree and give my neighbours a new tree to plant along side it so they'll keep being able to have the same apples in years to come, and to say thank you for letting me shoot there (although I haven't really had time for that lately).
Nice young, straight and thick growth to take a cutting from
I've grafted this on to an M25 rootstock so it will grow into a full sized tree.

Hippo inadvertently asked about root stocks in my last post so with out wanting to bore everyone with more apple talk here's a bit on what I know.
Apples don't grow true from seed, this is why we graft varieties we know on to root stocks. In doing this we're basically making a clone of that first tree that had those nice apples on it.
But what we graft the tree on to (the rootstock) decides how it vigorous it grows. So a Cox grafted on to an M25 rootstock will produce a tree that will be around 4.5m + in height whereas a cox grafted on to an M9 rootstock will produce a tree that's between 1.8m and 2.5m when fully grown. There are lots of root stocks to choose from but I tend to stick with the semi vigorous MM106 (or half standard) as I don't want to use a ladder to pick the apples and I want them to grow quite fast but still have some control over them.
Other things to take into consideration are things like an M9 will start bearing fruit a lot faster than an M25 and some are better suited to different soil or temperature conditions than others. There's loads on the Internet if you're interested in the subject!
This isn't only for apples but most types of fruit trees (all have there own set of rootstocks). Some even have to be double worked where two grafts are performed, an example would be where the bottom part is to influence the size of the roots and the second part is to influence how big the tree will grow and the third for the variety of fruit.
I'm willing to be corrected on any of this if I'm wrong! Anyone else got any information on rootsotcks to share?

Wednesday 10 April 2013

31 Apple Tree Grafts

On Saturday and Sunday I finally got round to grafting my apple trees.
My root stocks heeled in a pot ready to be grafted
 I used the whip and tongue graft on them all, and I even splashed out and brought some grafting tape and wax to seal them with. Lots of different types of apple trees collected from the local area (thanks again compost woman for your two) so if they all take I should have over 50 varieties of apple!

My collection of Scion wood
 The only difficulty I had was when some of my scion stock wasn't very wide. Here I took the advice of the books and just made sure that one side of the cambium layer was touching.
First two done
 Once I grafted up a batch I then heated up the grafting wax in the microwave to seal all my grafts.
To do this I dipped the cut end and painted the wax over the join before dipping them in cold water to set the wax. I would have dipped the whole graft in if I had a jar that was deep enough but doing it in this way seems fine.
Melted grafting wax

Grafted up and sealed waiting to go into the ground
In the end I grafted up 9 M25 trees and 22 MM106 trees. I didn't graft one M25 and two MM106 stocks as I'm going to attempt to grow my own root stocks from these by stooling, but I'll do that in another post.
I've just healed these trees back into the pot for now and at the weekend I'll create a nursery bed for them to grow in for the first year or so.
Lets hope they all take or else I could be learning budding in the summer! 

Monday 8 April 2013

Cockerel Dinner

Well it finally happened, four cockerels was two too many.
The one pen was housing three of these fine looking beasts, but they spent far too much time fighting, "attacking" the hens and crowing. The crowing was the worst, one would start the others off and then they would be at it for ages seeing who could crow the loudest.
It might not have been so bad if I hadn't tried to teach my daughter how to do a "cock-a-doddle-do" and she only got as far as "cock". She then spent the rest of the day saying it over and over and pointing. I think I'll learn by that mistake!
In truth I should have got rid of them ages ago and just kept one for each pen. Then they would have been young and tender, now I think I'll have to slow cook them.
Still I guess this is our first "farmed" meat and they had a pretty good life up until last night.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Cow Muck

 My amazing dad brought me some muck round the other night. Around 6 tons he recons but I think it could be quite a bit more!

Lucky I don't have to move it from here!
Our plans did change some what on where we were going to tip it when the trailer sank in to it's axle going across the second field! We decided that was the best (and only) place for it to go.
Can you see where he's been?
 Luckily he came with the loader and bucket so he could move it from there and dump it in the veg garden. This meant a lot less barrowing for me which was good as there is a lot of muck to move.

All the soft fruit has had a good mulch of well rotted muck

Still quite a bit to spread on the garden!
As this garden was just grass on a clay soil before I need to add a lot of well rotted material over the next few years to make it easy to work so this is just the beginning.
Anyone else getting bulk amounts of compost or muck to add to their veg patch?

Saturday 6 April 2013

Saving A Rabbit Damaged Tree

Or at least trying to...
Rabbit Damage
 Walking around my trees the other day I could see that one had been badly damaged by rabbits (or girdled the term is). They had chewed the bark above the rabbit guard and only a tiny strip on the back remains.
As this tree has only been in a year I could easily replace it, but that's a years growth wasted and the cost of a new tree, so I decided to try and repair it.
Make cuts below and above the damage into the cambium layer
The way the tree had been damaged meant that the sap couldn't flow up the tree anymore but I'd read about using "bridge grafts" to solve this problem -I'd just never tried it. Still nothing ventured...
I first took a couple of small branches from the same tree of last years growth. This was soft and flexible. I then cut a long cut on both ends and a small one on the other sides to make a wedge shape.
I bridge the damage using some small branches from last years growth
In the tree itself I made an incision below the damage and one above. These cuts aren't too deep but expose the cambium layer just below the bark. I then inserted the two "bridges" into these cuts. The books said I could just use one for a tree this size but I decided to go with two in case one didn't work. They are cut slightly long so they have to be bent into position helping to maintain cambium contact once the tape is applied.
The graft taped up, only time will tell to see if I did any good.
I then taped it all up and applied grafting wax to make sure it was sealed. And before I finished I added another rabbit guard on top of the first to help to keep the little buggers away.
I'm not sure whether this will work or not but it was interesting to try. Before I started to learn about grafting I would have assumed there wasn't anything I could do to keep this tree alive. It's nice to learn through doing by using the knowledge I've gained through books - because if you don't ever do what you've read about you haven't really learnt anything! .

Friday 5 April 2013

A Week Away

Sorry no posts or comments for the last week or so, we've been quite busy.
We've just got back from a week in Devon and before we went away I turned 30! Can't quite believe I've left my twenties behind but I'm exactly where I want to be in life - married to my beautiful wife, with a wonderful daughter, living in an amazing place, doing a job I love. I can't complain really (a smaller mortgage would be nice though)!

Starting to find her feet
We really enjoyed the break and it was nice to get away. We didn't go on a proper holiday last year so it was nice to spend some time together and although it's early in the year and still pretty cold the weather was quite good.

Peach Blossom
We even had sunshine on the day we went out for my birthday treat, to the Lost Gardens Of Heligan - but more about that amazing place later! I've come back with a massive list of jobs to get through so I think the next few days are going to be fairly busy - this afternoon I've had 6 tons of cow muck delivered, planted two cherry trees and had a good tidy up of the garden and thats before I've got started!

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