Country Living Blog from Herne Cottage

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Another Kitchen Garden Year at Herne Cottage 07/04/2012

Hello one and all, I am back again to report on what’s been happening at Herne Cottage so far this year!

We started on the veg garden later than usual due to work and other commitments, beginning with a tidy of old pots and pruning in the patio area, as well as some vigorous de-weeding! We brought in a few tomato and cucumber plug plants to get us started and these were potted up along with some pretty spring bulbs and aromatic herbs. This gave us back our lovely relaxing patio area that is just perfect for unwinding in with a glasss of wine after a hard day’s gardening, and of course eating al fresco when the weather is good! We then got on with catch up sowings of lettuce, spinach, chard and peas a few weeks ago, which have started to push through in their seed trays this weekend.

There was a frost this week however, that caught us out after a good run of sunny spells, so the tomato plants have perished as they were left outside and we need to sow some more after all! With the longer days and warmer weather on the horizon, we should have some new plug plants in no time..

The next job to do this weekend was to clear the raised beds, again of old plants from last autumn as well as the weeds, and dig in some rich organic matter.

This helps prepare and improve the soil ready for planting out seedlings. We added in some chicken manure pellets, as well as our own compost, freshly sieved from the bottom of the bins. This is a very satisfying task knowing you are putting something useful back into the earth from your own kitchen waste recycling and helping the next years crop of veg grow beautifully! Home made compost is also great for seed sowing as has just the right consistency needed for the seedlings to push their roots through into.

The first seedlings to then go directly into the ground were radish and lollo rosso lettuce in one bed, with beetroot and marigold flowers in another. I am hoping these pairings will look decorative next to each other when they are in full growth, making the kitchen garden look ornamental as well as functional. In the greenhouse were sown our replacement tomatoes, french beans, courgette and curly kale. This year we have also sown runner bean seedlings saved from last years pods, so that will be interesting to see how well they come up as well. This is a great way to save money instead of buying new seeds every year. If you can let some of your crop go to seed for this purpose it again is a recycling process of the whole garden, putting back into the earth some of what you take out.

The redcurrant, blackcurrant, raspberries, blackberries and gooseberry plants have all now been pruned in our fruit garden, and the base of the plants de-weeded with a sprinkling potash feed to get them off to a good start. The gooseberries already have flowers on as well as the sloes so here’s hoping for another bumper fruit harvest this year. The neighbouring damson trees from the railway embankment are also nearly in full blossom (and very pretty) so we should have another crop of wild fruits ready to make into delicious damson gin again ready for Christmas!

Lastly in the fruit garden, our rhubarb donation from mother in law last year has several healthy looking stems, so will have to find a delicious recipe to use that in over the next few weeks for when it is ready to harvest. I am hoping it is around the same time as the gooseberries as that will be a tasty (sharp tasting) pairing!

A final look back at the garden to the newly tidied raised beds and that’s our job done for this weekend. Now all we have to do is wait for the seedlings to push through, then the next round of kitchen garden tasks will need to be done, including thinning, potting on, and weeding…. but that’s for another post 🙂

Bye for now and happy gardening!

Spinach seedlings

Spinach seedlings

Clearing the raised beds of weeds

Clearing the raised beds of weeds

Sieving home made compost

Sieving home made compost

Home made compost

Home made compost

Saving runner bean seeds

Saving runner bean seeds

Damson blossom

Damson blossom

Tidied raised beds ready for another year of vegetable growing

Tidied raised beds ready for another year of vegetable growing


Early Spring Photos 04/03/2010

Filed under: Compost,Fruit Growing,Self Sufficiency,Vegetable Patch — hernegardens @ 12:36 pm

Here are some photos of our garden in early spring 2010!

Newly restored greenhouse

Newly restored (and tidy!) greenhouse

Herb and flower bed mulched with our own compost

Herb and flower bed mulched with our own compost

New Compost Area

New compost area and bins at end of garden

Potatoes Chitting

Seed potatoes chitting well


Shallots planted in the autumn now coming through

New area for fruit

Our fruit area prepared with raspberry canes and currant bushes planted


How to make compost 03/03/2010

Filed under: Compost,Self Sufficiency,Vegetable Patch — hernegardens @ 7:38 pm
Kitchen waste into compost bin

Kitchen waste into compost bin

Home made compost is great. Not only does it make something useful out of food and household waste – something I always felt guilty about throwing away – it helps your garden and the environment at the same time. You can use home made compost to improve the soil, mulch your borders, or mix with other things like sand to make an excellent seed sowing medium much cheaper than in the garden centre!

After having good success with our home made compost this year I am inspired to share with you how we made it:

1. We began by buying a black compost bin from our local council. It is a lot cheaper to buy one this way. Ask your council for details.

2. A suitable site was the next thing to find, and for us this was on a concrete path near the back of the house in a sunny position (to help the bin get warm and ‘cook’ the compost inside). As it was on concrete, we began with a layer of old compost/soil to get things moving.

3. The kitchen scraps we had saved were the next thing to go down to start the ‘layers’. Compost needs layers to work, so that you get a good mix of ingredients and it doesn’t become too wet (from kitchen/food waste as it decomposes), or too dry from just plant materials. The two types of waste you need are ‘browns’ – such as kitchen waste, cardboard etc and ‘greens’ – such as garden clippings, prunings, some weeds etc.

4. Then a layer of cardboard was added. It is important to break this up into smaller sections (along with anything you put in the bin actually) to allow it to be composted effectively.

5. Next came a layer of garden prunings, leaves etc along with a ‘starter’ such as bonemeal, grass clippings etc to get it going. I’ve heard urine is also a good starter but we are yet to try this!

6. All of this food was enough to get the small organisms/insects etc to start eating it and breaking it down into the final compost through their own waste (Compost is basically worm ‘poo’ – lovely!).

7. The same principle was applied to build up the material in the bin over the next few months, saving food waste, old cardboard, garden waste etc and adding it in layers to enable a good mix.

8. The bin took at least a year to start producing good compost, which we could get to from the hatch at the bottom.

So that’s basically it. For more information on what you can and can’t put in to your compost see see Some items should not go in, for example waste from non-vegetarian animals, perennial weeds etc (you don’t want them re-growing again in your garden!). The site also has lots of information about what to do with the finished compost etc. This month we did ‘turn’ the compost to help separate out the ready compost from the compost still to be broken down. This also gives it a mix again after the cold months to help get it started. We also moved it to the end of the garden as found it attracted rats (for the food) and didn’t like them so close to the house. We now need to make more use of a kitchen ‘caddy’ to save up the food waste for less trips down the end of the garden! The new site is still sunny, but we put the bin on a layer of plastic matting first, to stop bindweed growing up into it. We now have two bins also, one for ready compost and one for cooking compost.

Of course you can also make compost in a more traditional arrangement of a wooden slatted ‘box’ but we found this was an easy way to get started. We have also found though that we need much more compost than one bin can make so may have to set up this system too (we certainly have enough waste for it!).

Good luck with your compost, and do share your own tips and experiences!