Monday 31 January 2022

Seed Swap This Weekend

 So this coming weekend is the seed swap in Hereford. 

It's always a great day and one I really enjoy helping out with. There are always so many interesting seeds and always interesting people to talk to. 

Be lovely to see some of you there! 

Who else goes to seed swaps? 

What was your best swap or seed you acquired? 

Sunday 30 January 2022

A good Apple Tree Book

I'm quite often asked about recommending a good apple tree book. Especially about training and grafting.

There are hundreds out there, some great, some not. One I often recommend is form the 1940's, Fruit Tree Growing by Raymond Bush (if there was ever a name for a fruit tree book). Not everything in there is gold (they're just getting into sprays and stuff), but the chapter on grafting is good. 

Although it's old it written in quite a light and humorous way, with instructions that are easy to follow. There are of course many other techniques out there, but this has a good handle on the basics. Also it shouldn't cost more than about £3 so I'm not recommending to someone to spend a fortune. 

 One thing I will say is that with fruit tree growing, grafting and training, it's just to have a go. You can pick up a cheap supermarket fruit tree for £5 most springs so it's worth buying one and just seeing how you can implement the knowledge in these book. Stuff normally grows back and they're surprisingly hard to kill (so long as you keep watering them). It's worth getting a few and having them in pots on the patio, make a framework of bamboo (hazel even better) and then just train them over a few summers into different shapes. 

The same with grafting, make some family trees, try budding in late summer, cut a branch off an older tree and try to cleft graft. Invest a few pounds and buy some rootstocks on the internet and create your own trees, if they take you can sell them easily and cover your costs and you will have learnt far more than if you just read about it. 

In fact after writing this I think I will get a few cheap apple trees and train them in pots on the patio to show how to do this. Should be fun. 

Do you have  fruit tree book you recommend or turn to?

Friday 28 January 2022

Horseradish - what a brute!

 A few years ago I had some horseradish in a pot which I left for a few months. Unknown to me this sent a tap root down and out under it, between a crack in the slabs. 

Cut to 4 years later and I'm trying to dig the blinking brute out the plot! Oh my goodness doesn't it spread! I think I have most of the roots up (double dug around it) but I shall only keep it in a pot from now on! and one that is raised above the ground! 

I do enjoy the heat from horseradish (great with parsnip in a mash) but I'm the only one here who does, so not really worth growing very much of. 

Who likes horseradish? 

Any tips for keeping it under control?

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Tidying Up the Cordon Apple Trees - Part 1

 I love my cordon apple trees. But they have got a bit messy. Not so much in the pruning as I've done that every summer without fail. More in how they're tied in (and the weeds under them). 

The wires had gone loose and the bamboo canes had rotted out.

Monday 24 January 2022

Craft For Mental Health - Knitting

 I came in the other day to find both my girls knitting, keen to learn the skills from their mother, with her patently showing them how to do it. 

Crafts have always been in my mental health tool kit. To create something, anything, is powerful and gives you such a sense of achievement. It's almost like our hands are hardwired to create things, I often feel very lucky that I get to make things with my hands every day of the week. 

They're a long way of knitting me a pair of gloves, but it's great to see them learning new skill that will stay with them for life. 

Do you knit? If you do, who taught you?

Friday 21 January 2022

Custom Potting Tray

I quite often get requests for potting trays in custom sizes, but this one is the biggest yet! 

 You can see it here next to one of my medium trays. I think you could tip out a whole bag of compost on there to sort out and mix! Hope the customer enjoys using it! 

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Onions Sown

It feels good to start sowing a few seeds and think about the harvest to come in a few months. 

 My middlest child and I went out in the drizzle on Sunday and planted a few trays of onion and shallot seeds, to go on some heat in my bedroom. While we were at it we also sowed some very old chilli seeds - no idea if they'll come up but I figure we've got the heat on, so nothing to loose really! 

In the next few weeks we might start to think about sowing some peas and beans, but rats and mice have been a real problem this year so I'm in no rush to start fighting them already! 

What has everyone else been sowing?

Monday 17 January 2022

Dealing With Bindweed?

 "Bindweed man lives in the family garden, with his bindweed lady love and his bindweed children three (billion)"

Unfortunately a few years ago I unwittingly imported some muck that must have had some bindweed in it. It has since become the bane of my gardening life. It's only in a few beds and this year I'm determined to get on top of it. 

Saturday 15 January 2022

The Great Alviti Bake Off - Birthday present

With birthdays this week I decided to make the children a small joint present. It's one I've been thinking of for over a year now but never found the time (that old excuse). 

We're lucky in the fact that the children will play for hours together. Last Saturday is a perfect example of this. It rained all day and I was soft and didn't kick them outside. But they played the whole time with Lego, not a cross word spoken all day and a whole world created. 

Another favourite is "playdough bake off". They get the play dough out, my wife and I set them a task and theme then judge what they create.  One day I went off to do some work for a customer, set them a task as I left, came back over 8 hours later they were still playing (with different task and had lunch in between). 

So I decided that a bake off box would be ideal. I made it with some local sustainable sweet chestnut (from say it with wood).

In the top is a spinner that choses what type of task - technical, signature and showstopper. Then there is two compartments, one for the theme (we had fun putting these together) and another for the week it is (e.g. pastry week, cake week, etc). 

The top is hand carved then painted.

I know how I built it could possibly cause some expansion/contraction issues as I routed the top in, but with a little box like this I'm willing to take the risk! 

Hopefully it should provide a bit of fun for them and have some good ideas for their playing together. 

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Birthday week!

 We have a few birthdays this week (bad planning to have them together...) and I honestly can't believe six years have gone past for this little dude

Not a day goes past where he doesn't make me laugh or tell me that he loves me. He is funny, passionate about everything he's interested in, so artistic, caring towards his friends, will play for hours in his own little world or with his sisters. He's so clever with the world as well and his enthusiasm for learning knew things rubs off on everyone around him. One of the best bit about him (and his sisters) is they're just such good company, I love spending time with them. I'm a truly lucky father. 

The girls and I have made his cake for his birthday, with his favourite subject matter in mind - can you guess what it is?

Who else enjoys a making a good (and bad) birthday cake? 

Anyone remember my Peppa pig cake

Saturday 8 January 2022

Half An Hour A Day

Last year my veg garden was a massive disappointment.

It got over grown and got to the point where I didn't even like going in there in the summer. I'm determined to get it back to it's productive self, so I've set myself the task of getting it ready for spring byt spending half an hour a day in there*

*Weather depending

Monday 3 January 2022

Idiot Stick

 I'll do some proper posts soon - things have been busy with Christmas and I have lots of magazine articles to write as well (not that I'm complaining - I love doing those) 

Today was a lovely calm day before my wife goes back to work tomorrow. I decided to start teaching my eldest daughter some axe skills. 

Just simple splitting of some kindling. In the end she filled two chicken feed bags, so she took one round to our elderly neighbours and put one in the woodshed for us to use. You could tell she was super proud of herself and also the fact she could carry the whole sack full - my neighbour even messaged me to say he couldn't believe she carried all that! 

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