My Kitchen Garden

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Today I have a quick tour of my kitchen garden. One of the first things I did when we moved house is plan the garden. While house hunting, I didn’t even consider anything without a good sized garden so it was wonderful to finally find something within our budget with plenty of space for planting and growing, as well as for the children to play.

I ordered these raised beds from Quickcrop who provided an excellent service. My husband assembled them for me and I laid them straight on the lawn, with weed suppressing membranes for the path areas (tucked just under each raised bed edge to prevent weeds coming through). I then emptied the pea gravel on top and had the raised beds filled with compost (I think I bought a tonne bag and divided it between the four beds). It’s not perfect and we haven’t got round to finishing the edges, but I’m really pleased with the result.

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Lettuce Descartes from seed, bought from Sarah Raven. It’s such a pretty, soft lettuce.

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I also planted red iceberg which is working well as a cut and come again salad crop. Last year I bought a living salad from Lidl and planted them out individually, which produced lots of beautiful lettuces.

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This bed is for tomatoes and aubergine, and there is a swiss chard plant leftover from last autumn which is still producing leaves. The marigold (Calendula ‘Nova’) has self seeded everywhere after I planted it last year.

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In other beds we have herbs, cucumber, courgette, spring onions, carrots, radishes, dwarf beans and Swiss chard growing. I decided to plant the vegetables I might need to look after more closely and herbs I need while cooking at home, while the other veg has gone in at the allotment.

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An Unusual Penge Garden

|I have lived in London for over ten years now and have come across many a front garden, from the scruffy and unloved to those with beautiful tiled and box edged paths. This is a completely different type of garden.

This little garden in Penge is a feast for the eyes with its incredible array of exotic and succulent plants.

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The owner was kind enough to speak to me about his collection which he has curated from specialist shows and bought from nurseries and online shops.

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There are lots of amazing varieties I’ve never seen before, such as this beautiful flowering plant.

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This house is in a beautiful area of Penge. It’s a lovely area for a walk to end with a cup of tea and cake at Alexandra Nurseries.

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It was inspirational to see someone’s passion for their collection and that they were able to display it so beautifully in a small space.

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Have you come across any beautiful, unusual private gardens?

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In My Garden

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The light in the garden in late afternoon was beautiful yesterday.

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These roses surprised me, we’ve lived in the house for over a year and I didn’t see any of these last year. They are beautiful, huge pillowy flowers with a beautiful scent.

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Perennial herbs – sage, chives, oregano and rosemary survived the winter and are flourishing again.

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This chard was also planted last year. I put a couple in the flower bed and the rest in the vegetable raised beds. They are pretty much the only vegetables that survived the winter, we did have a broccoli but it flowered before it grew much, as well as lots of purslane which no one was very interested in eating. We also had some of the leek today. garden3

I’m so pleased with the lupins. I have tried to grow these for years without success, mostly due to slugs. These were planted last year along with aquilegia, echinacea and verbena bonariensis which have all grown very well this year. I’d love to fill the bed with perennials and shrubs so its a little or no work garden. garden1

The colour is very striking, although I’m not sure it seems perfectly natural. It’s almost a royal blue.

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I’ve also started hardening off the seedlings (all ten trays!) but not everything looks ready to go out yet. Some plants don’t seem to have grown much in the last few weeks, but we haven’t had much sun really.

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I planted Little Leprechaun lettuce and Descartes from Sarah Raven, as they looked very pretty (as with everything from Sarah Raven!). There s also sweetcorn, squash, courgettes, cucumber, artichokes and various herbs. I also have seedlings for cut flowers – cosmos, cerinthe, sunflowers, zinnias, ammi majus, to name a few. There are just a few sweetpea plants (most didn’t germinate) which is a shame as I love them.

There’s plenty of work for me to do in the garden, and I am also trying to get our allotment in some sort of shape for beans and the big veg like squash. Are you growing your own plants from seed this year?

A Garden Tour

I must confess that blogging has been quite low on the priority list over the past few months, mostly due to my obsession with gardening, but also in part due to being very busy (and very tired) during Ramadan.

I only became interested in gardening last year, and decided to start off a few things from seed and see what happened. We managed to get quite a few tomatoes and 2 or 3 marrows (and a few measly potatoes). We have a tiny garden which was taken over on one side by a large and ugly ivy which was over a foot deep and 8 foot high. I had this removed earlier in the year, which meant the fences had to be replaced, but once this was done we had a lovely empty border and lots more light and space.

gardenI bought some perennials from the Beth Chatto gardens to fill the space, but to my beginner eyes, it all looked rather sad and empty.

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Despite being reassured that the plants would fill out the space with time, I couldn’t resist popping in new plants here and there to fill up the gaps. I was given a pot full of tomato seedlings and stuck them in randomly (10 in all on three sides of the garden), as well as a ball courgette plant, annuals including verbena bonariensis, cerinthe major, cosmos and antirrhinum, scented stocks, rainbow chard and dwarf french beans.

After three weeks, we ended up with this:

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I love the picture above, even though the garden is starting to look quite ramshackle! It was how I had imagined the colours to look together. The Moerheim beauty and agastache both flourished and I was also pleased with the number of echinacea flowers we had (and they attract lots of bees).

DSC_0514I noticed that Echinacea has a starring role in the new Pretty Potent collection.

DSC_0509I also bought some argyranthemum in the Sarah Raven sale which have finally bloomed. I also bought Cleome and the pink pot collection – the nicotiana were not at all successful unfortunately and the snails devoured most of the cleome.

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Overall, I think the garden has been a real pleasure over the past few months. My only regret is that we didn’t get the fence and gate painted as planned before everything grew as it is now impossible to paint without trampling over everything. I will also not be planting any vegetables in the flower border next year! I didn’t anticipate the tomatoes getting so big – one of the plants are taller than me!

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We have had some vegetables from the garden, including some very pretty patty pan squash. Unfortunately we were away for 4 days which resulted in a lot of new vegetables just giving up altogether so I think we will have to wait a while before we get a good crop. We may go all out and get an allotment next year as I have discovered there is one 0.3 miles away!

 

Live Below the Line

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Radish thinnings from the garden to add to our dinner!

 

I’m currently doing a 5 day challenge as part of Live Below the Line (sponsor me here!) – I am only allowed to eat £1 worth of food per day. As I’m doing it together with my husband, we pooled our £10 and bought the following: 

  • Pasta 39p
  • Oil 40p (1/3 bottle) 
  • Can of white beans 33p
  • Can of tinned tomatoes 33p
  • Plain yoghurt 45p 
  • Lentils 95p for 500g
  • Potatoes 80p for 1kg 
  • Lemon 29p 
  • Onions 50p
  • Garlic 16p
  • Sugar 20p 
  • Milk 55p 
  • Teabags 27p 
  • Fresh Turkish bread 70p
  • Pitta bread 39p
  • Eggs £1 for 6
  • Mayonnaise 45p
  • Rice 40p 
  • Baked beans 40p 
  • Bananas 3 for 28p 
  • Porridge 20p (1/3 pack) 
  • Salt/spices from cupboard 50p 

In total so far, that adds up to £9.35. 

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I wanted to prove that we could eat well even on this small amount of food, but we have found it difficult so far. I’ve learned a lot about our shopping and eating habits. I thought we’d be able to afford some fresh fruit and vegetables with our budget, as well as packets of dried beans/lentils etc. I’ve realised how expensive fresh food is relative to tinned/dried foods, with fruit in particular being a bit of a luxury on such a tight budget.The rules stated that you could buy whole packets of things only, however this was impossible as oil and porridge could not be bought in smaller quantities. On a practical point, it would be more realistic to buy large quantities of cheap staples to be eaten over a long period of time rather than only 5 days’ worth. 

I also realised that I barely notice the budget ranges in the supermarket usually, and had no idea it was possible to buy decent(ish) tea for only 27p for 80 teabags! Basics pasta and rice from Sainsburys are also perfectly edible, although the rice is much more gloopy than the basmati rice we usually eat. We also tend to buy too much each week and could easily cut back, saving some money and wasting less food in the process. I nearly burnt a pot of dhal and it would have been a disaster, whereas usually I’ll just make some more without worrying about it. 

So far, we’ve had Turkish lentil soup with the bread, potato curry (with a few baby radish leaves from the garden) dhal and rice, egg omelette and my favourite dish, which is pasta with yoghurt and chilli oil. Our main meals have been tasty, but we have had to ration ourselves as we only had six eggs in total and a limited amount of lentils. I’m partial to a biscuit with my tea which was not allowed and I haven’t eaten anything sweet (except for porridge) since the start of the challenge, which is hard when you have a freezer stocked with ice cream in this weather! I was contemplating making a creme caramel with an egg and the last of our milk but I’m not sure if this will be the wisest use of our resources. 

Although we’re not too hungry (except at breakfast time – I can’t stomach the porridge so have been skipping it) it does take the joy out of shopping for food and eating when you can only eat the basics. I have noticed feeling much more tired than usual which is probably due to cutting all the snacks out. It’s still been very worthwhile though, I have definitely thought a lot about how we spend money in the past few days.