August 30th, 2015

Tomatoes 2015!

Rather than trying to remember next year which tomatoes we liked best, I decided to actually write it down! Most of these are heirloom varieties from The Real Seed Catalogue (who I can’t recommend enough by the way), a few are just from the depths of the seed stash. They were grown in the greenhouse unless otherwise noted, and were mostly neglected. We generally manage to water when needed, but miss a few shoots that should be pinched out, and often forget to feed as often as we should.

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1. Garden Pearl. Teeny tiny cherry tomato, great for hanging baskets. Super prolific, but not especially early.
2. Latah. Bush type. Grown outside. very very early, very prolific, slightly bumpy tomatoes, fairly small. J’s favourite for flavour.
3. Grushovka. Bush type. Grown outside. Moderately early. Large pink heart shaped tomatoes with firm flesh. Very yummy. Fruit is very heavy and the plant doesn’t support it well, so needs protecting from slugs. Surprising amount of fruit from a small plant.
4. Costoluto. Great plum tomato. Not especially early.
5. Green Zebra. Pretty stripey green/yellow when ripe. Not hugely prolific, but very tasty.
6. Skykomish. Well, it’s a tomato. Not hugely exciting, but yellow is pretty I guess. Tastes nice, but nothing mindblowing. Moderately late, moderately prolific.
7. Amish Paste. Very prolific, mid season, sizes from medium to enormous. Kind of a pain in the ass cos there are just too many folds and the bit at the bottom where the flower joins often makes a big black bit that needs cutting out. Taste is fine, good for sauces, but we’ve grown it for 3 years now and it’s probably too much of a pain to bother growing again.
8. Rose De Berne. Very prolific, mid season, pretty large pink tomatoes. Taste lovely, probably my favourite this year.
9. Black Cherry. Very prolific, mid season but go on and on for ever, pretty purple cherry tomatoes. Only grew them cos we had a few seeds left over, but I’m glad I did.

August 16th, 2013

Garden evolution

So yeah, I’m an awful blogger, I’ve done a million things and not blogged about any of them. So, in my usual style, here’s a quick round up of what’s changed in the garden this year.

My previous lodger was very anti-garden, he used to say that given the choice he would concrete over the lot, so it’s been so nice to have someone who can actually help me do things. All the manual labour in the following projects has been provided by J, but I did all the things that can be done while sitting down, the planning, planting of seeds, and the ‘supervising’!

First, we relocated the chickens. They’d turned their area to mud, so we moved them onto a clean area of lawn, planning to re-seed their bit. The plans changed somewhat as we went along, so the layout is different now, and we’ve still not moved them to their final place, but the garden is looking nicer now, and we have an extra small raised bed.

The area has gone from mud to being covered in grass and overrun by a giant pumpkin plant in just a few months.

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Our major project has been a new greenhouse (shut up, we DO need 4 greenhouses!). I saw this one offered on freegle, and while it needed a lot of work, it was freeee, so we went and picked it up. It wouldn’t fit in the car, so we had to saw each panel into 3 and reattach at home, but it was totally worth it. We also managed to score some extra bits of glass on freegle to replace the ones which had been broken.

All it needs now is a bit more putty round a couple of the windows, one pane of glass adding to the door, and for me to design and build a vent. I have the timber for it, but I’m still procrastinating about the best way to do it that’ll let it open easily and still be watertight when it’s shut. I finished building the bench in there today and moved my Abutilon, chillis, and a grape vine in there. Hopefully it’ll be the least drafty of all the greenhouses once it’s finished, so I can keep my non-hardy things over there in winter, and maybe move the heater in there if it still gets too cold.

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The front bed which is home to my cherry tree had a makeover and was turned into an alpine/succulent bed. It’s filling out really nicely now, and I made a little succulent wall hanging to go above it.

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I also got to see a sempervivium flower for the first time. Of course it was one of the ones in the wall hanging that decided to do it, so the flower went all curvy trying to get vertical, but it still looked pretty.

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We harvested lots of things, and even remembered to photograph a few, including my first ever honeyberries!

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We are currently overrun with cucumbers and trying to give them away to everyone we know. But hardly any tomatoes yet, only a few cherry ones, the late winter has set everything back, and it’s not faaaair, I want my tomatoes now, they are doing SO well. There are also baby peppers and melons hiding under the mass of foliage in the greenhouse.
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The pond was looking very unhappy earlier in the year, there’s a tree behind my garden which fills it with leaves every autumn. I had the gross job of pulling out piles of rotting leaf muck, and then I put in a water lily and some oxygenators, and the water is now clear, and the newts are very happy. This autumn I must remember to put a net over it.
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In unrelated news, I finally got a new car. I loved my old car, but the windows didn’t work, the locks didn’t work, and every MOT it needed more and more work. My parents are getting a new car and decided to give me their old one, but in the end they swapped their old one for something that was cheaper for me to run. The man at the dealership was unsure as to whether I’d be able to fit an 8ft length of timber in, which is clearly of prime importance, so I made sure to get some roof bars too. And now I have a cute little mazda 2 that has working windows! and actually locks! and has a CD player rather than a tape player! And, my absolute favourite thing: air conditioning!!!!! I looooove my car.

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And my final new thing, bought with a combination of birthday money and destash proceeds…a 20″ ashford knitter’s loom. I’ve only had it a few days, but I’ve managed to make a teatowel (best teatowel ever!) and a scarf. I was concerned that it was going to be too physically hard for me, and using it on the stand was very tiring and hurt my back, but I figured out a way that I can use it while sitting in bed, by propping up the end on a plastic box, and it’s much easier to use that way.

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April 25th, 2013

Huge garden update

So it was winter. Then it was more winter. Then I was beginning to lose hope that we’d ever see temperatures above freezing, then all of a sudden IT WAS SPRING. I prepared a little by planting many seeds indoors, and set up a complicated hardening off system involving moving seedlings from indoors, to one greenhouse, to the other, then finally to outside, but I couldn’t actually DO much out there until a couple of weeks ago as the ground was frozen solid.

But this is (as much for future-vampy’s information as your edification), the state of my garden as of today.

Firstly, a couple of months ago I exchanged some Tesco clubcard vouchers for Thomspon and Morgan vouchers, and tried to take advantage of as many special offers on their site as I could so I could pay some attention to the non veggie part of the garden. Here’s what I ordered. All pics are taken from the T&M site, but I am sure they won’t mind as this is good advertising for them…so buy your plants from them, they have awesome bargains!

Firstly, I ordered some perennials from their collections. The plants you get are teeny tiny, but I don’t mind, I put them in pots in the greenhouse to get big and strong before planting out. I got a similar pack last year, and aside from one plant that got eaten by slugs, all are doing well. I got:

A Coreopsis Sunray
B Echinacea Magic box mixed
C Scabiosa blue jeans
D Digitalis Foxglove dalmation peach
E Papaver pizzicato
F Silene Jack flash

A Coreopsis Sunray
B Gaillardia Arizona Sun
C Scabiosa Blue Jeans
D Papaver pizzicato
E Silene Jack flash
F Aquilegia Swan mixed
G Gaillardia Arizona Apricot
H Delphinium Pacific Giants
I Lavender Munstead
J Heuchera Palace Purple

perennial collection

The pic isn’t actually of the actual things I ordered cos they substituted some, or I didn’t download the pic when I ordered and they changed the pack or something, but it’s all good, I love everything I have. Well, except the foxgloves, and that’s not for any aesthetic reasons, but because bees hide in the flowers and then come out buzzing ‘HI THERE I AM A BEE’ and scare the life out of me. But I like bees and I like them being around to pollinate my things, so it’s a good thing really.

I also ordered lots of seeds. I didn’t bother making a photo of the veggie seeds, cos I know what veggies look like, but I’m still very much a novice with flowers, so I stole the pics so I knew what to expect. These are all planted, and most are doing well, although there was an unfortunate incident involving lizards roaming around in the greenhouse and deciding that clambering all over my seedlings was more fun than sunbathing on the rock or eating the greens planted especially for them, so there were several casualties. Hopefully I’ll still have at least one plant of each variety, if not, I guess I’ll have to plant more seeds next year.

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I went outside to potter and do a few chores and get some pics of everything. LOTS of pics. So erm, here you go. pics because it did indeed happen.

As ever, the bed beside the back door is the most finished, and has the earliest blooming flowers, so it looks pretty good already:
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The herb part is in need of a few additions, i have flat leaf parsley, coriander, and basil all growing on my bedroom windowsill waiting to go out:
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I have my first hanging basket! I was scared of them before cos i know I am rubbish at watering stuff in summer, but with it being fleece lined and having a water holding sheet in it, fingers crossed it’ll survive:
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The chickens have been temporarily relocated to the lawn area so we could reseed their area. The honeysuckle and rose are having their first year of not being cut back to the ground, and are enjoying climbing the arch:
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We decided to move things around a little and put the swing seat against the hedgerow, so the chickens’ fence will go in a different place to before, which is a bit annoying, as we planted the line of daffodils along the old fence, so they are gonna need relocating. The new layout at least means I could squeeze in another bed next to the greenhouse, for our squashes. At the moment there’s a courgette planted in the ground under the cold frame, and I moved the peas in pots in there to get a bit bigger before planting out. The straw is down to hopefully keep the grass seed moist enough to grow:
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The view from the swing seat:
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I got some water damaged floorboards on freecycle a while ago, and made a nice 3 compartment compost bin to replace the circle of chicken wire I was using before. J dug out the compost for me, and there were several barrowfuls of really good compost at the bottom, which have been put into the greenhouse and a couple of the beds. And there’ll be more to come next year!
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The back bed is next on the list for adding more plants to. J bought me a dicentra and put it in the other day, I looove it. The pond isn’t so happy, too many leaves fell in it from the trees in the garden behind, so I spent ages fishing them out and pulled out a ton of rotting leaf mud gunge from the bottom. I recently put in some more oxygenators and a small red waterlily, so hopefully the algae will clear once the lily grows. It’s not toooo unhappy though, I did see a few newts in there the other day:
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One of the best things about going outside is checking the chicken house:
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I love all the different colours, even if they do end up a bit poopy. I kinda want a chicken that makes blue eggs:
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The veg area is looking very bare, it’s too early to put most things out. The broad beans have been there over winter and aren’t doing too well, i think they got snowed on too many times:
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The asparagus is doing okay though, plants here range from 1-3 years old. Not tooooo much longer to wait until we can pick it:
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The fruit bushes in pots are pretty happy. They’re mostly blueberries, with a couple of honeyberries and a blackcurrant. The plan is to make a big raised bed and buy a load of ericaceous compost so I can have an actual blueberry bed:
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I wasn’t very good at picking celery last year. I am completely amazed that it survived the winter:
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One artichoke did awesomely at getting through winter. The others less so, though that might be related to cat digging rather than temperature. The blackcurrant bushes at the end of the bed are looking good, may even get some fruit this year, and the raspberries in the bed behind are running rampant as ever:
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Unfortunately the front patio is a huge big mess. It’s somewhere down the list to tidy:
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The sempervivium in the front bed is doing wonderfully though. It was growing on the roof of the garage, so I asked gren to get it down for me a couple of years ago, and planted it. It had a million babies, and this is one of the babies making baby plants of its own. There are at least 10 of them in this bed now, and they are great:
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At least my pots and canes are organised, even though there is mess everywhere else!
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We had too much garlic, so i stuck some in a pot, it seems happy enough:
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The easiest way to plant potatoes: Make a big mound in the centre of the bed, and plant a row of potatoes each side. Then when it comes time to earth them up, you can just push soil down from the mound and not have to find it from elsewhere or worry about hurting any potatoes by digging soil from around them:
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Stage 2 in the hardening off rotation, a cold frame inside a greenhouse. For a while I put a tube heater in here, but it’s getting warm enough now that it doesn’t need it. It has mostly peas in in this shot, but I moved them to an outdoor cold frame and switched things around:
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After moving stuff around in there…basil, sweet peas, beans, melons, broccoli, chillis, aubergines, and some rather leggy tomatoes that i left indoors too long:
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Here’s the greenhouse with the cold frame, kiwis, tobacco plants, tomatoes, and various other things in:
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The other greenhouse is full! This bed is the ‘lets grow some salad things before we need to put other plants in’ bed. It has radish, carrots, rocket, mizuna, spinach and chard in.
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Here’s some of the perennials from T&M in pots waiting to get bigger before going outside, and a couple of tomatoes to the right that were started off under a grow light indoors, along with the tobacco:
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More perennials, tobacco, sunflowers, marigolds, and tomatoes. And maybe a couple of other things:
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It’s a hard life being a cat:
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Especially when someone covers up the catmint to stop me lying on it. This is the first time I’ve managed to keep catmint alive without the cats trashing it. Yay for hanging basket covers and tent pegs!
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Do you mind? Taking cat drugs is serious business, do not interrupt!
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Hey, I want in on the drugs! the lavender in the back of the pic is from one of the T&M perennial packs last year. It’s doing really well.
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How dare you come near my run without bringing food!
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And now some closeups:

The hebe my dad got me last year:
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Pear tree:
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The kiwi plants have leaves, and pink balls. I assume the balls are going to become flowers, so maybe we’ll get some fruit this year. I bought the plants last year and they were really small, so I guess I should look into whether i should allow them to fruit or not this year.
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The grape my dad bought me last year is alive, woo!
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I potted up some strawberry runners last year, I have no idea what we’re gonna do with them all:
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We took some cuttings from the rose last autumn just for fun, we got at least a 50% success rate, which is great, though again i have no idea what to do with them!
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HI, I AM MINT! CAN YOU SEE ME! NO? OKAY I’LL JUST GROW SOME MORE THEN!
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And a few more random flower pics:
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August 29th, 2012

Babies!

I think I probably forgot to blog about it, but these guys are J’s bearded dragons. He’s had Dizzy for a few years, and in spring decided to get a male to keep her company.

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After a couple of months in separate vivs, and a bit of territorial behaviour, they decided to become friends and live together happily, then after a couple of weeks of mating behaviour…arm waving, head bobbing, beard biting, we realised dizzy was finally knocked up! We didn’t see the actual penetration the first time, but she was getting fatter and fatter. Then she started frantically digging in the sand in her viv. We took her out and put her in a box of damp compost, but she wasn’t very interested in it. After a couple of days of spending an hour in the compost box a day, she decided she was ready, dug a hole, and laid 21 eggs in it. We carefully extracted the eggs and put them in an incubator which I made from a polystyrene box with a heat mat attached to a thermostat in. Later I put a perspex window in and sealed it with silicone so I could see the eggs without lifting the lid. I put a dish of water in the box on the heat mat to get the humidity up (image below shows a small heat mat, we changed it to a larger one a few days in), and put the eggs in dents on the surface of damp vermiculite. Half the eggs we put on the surface in the orientation in which they were laid, and the other half we candled and put with the yolk sac up, as the internet disagreed on which method was best. Both worked fine for us. The crappy hygrometer we had measured the humidity between 80 and 90%, and we set the thermostat to 28 degrees C. None of the eggs showed any signs of mould, but they didn’t really seem to do much either, then after a few weeks we realised they were getting bigger.

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After 71 days, one of the eggs looked dented, but the others looked fine. We expected them all to dent shortly before hatching, but nope, just this one. On the morning of day 72 there was one baby hatched, and 3 more eggs pipped.

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Now there are 14 babies! And they are so cute!

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And in other news we harvested a lot of stuff from the plot. Potatoes, red onion, garlic, carrots, beans, peas, courgette and one squash

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August 9th, 2012

Monster garden update.

I’ve been rather remiss at updating the blog, and rubbish at keeping records of gardening stuff. It started out so well at the start of the year, I had a spreadsheet with all the plants and varieties and notes about when stuff was planted and how it was doing. Then it got to about april when stuff actually needed doing in the garden, and doing stuff took priority over making notes about stuff. So today I tried to catch up and went out and made notes on what I’ve got and how it’s doing.

First, here’s some pics of my garden from above. I have a flat roof on top of the living room, and J had never been up there, so we got out the ladder and went to have a look the other week.

Main part of the garden:
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Veggie area:
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Veggie area overflow:
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Onto today’s cataloguing of plants.
Conservatory greenhouse:
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Kiwi fruit. No variety listed other than it being self fertile, was £1.99 at the local cheap garden centre so I thought I’d give it a go. Doing awesomely, I kept having to add extra canes and move the vine as it was growing. Very fast vigorous grower, but no fruit yet.

Gherkin cucumber. No idea of variety, grown from seed by my dad rather late in the season. Very vigorous growth, plants are now taller than me, and mini fruits are just appearing.

Grape, cabernet. Incredibly vigorous growth, has easily doubled in size in the few months I’ve had it, is now growing along the greenhouse roof. The grapes are getting bigger too. wooooo.
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Pink passionflower. Grew from seed this year, will have to check the packet for the variety. Seems to be pretty happy, about 50cm tall now, no sign of flowering yet. Will have to see how it does over winter.

Kumquat and lime trees. Well, they are still alive and covered in leaves and making new shoots, and the lime flowered very very early in the year, but lost all the fruit. I think maybe I’m not destined to grow citrus plants, but I’ll see how they do if they stay in the greenhouse, as they were moved around rather a lot last winter between the house and both greenhouses.

Asparagus. Grown from seed to eventually plant at J’s plot. Seems very happy indeed, just put into bigger pots and will plant out in autumn or maybe next spring.

Globe artichoke. Left them in their mini seedling pots for too long, but finally moved into bigger pots and seem to be doing okay. I really should move them outside. I would plant them out, but something killed all the artichokes at the plot, so there may be a change of plan regarding their location.

Chillis: Gusto purple and cayenne are doing ok, leaves a bit yellow, but had a few fruit from each. Should probably feed them and see if that helps. Jalapenos are doing pretty good, mini fruits just starting to form. Krakatoa F1 is doing great, lots of fruit on a very small plant. I picked it up at a garden centre I went to with my parents and now I’m hoping it tastes nice and isn’t just crazily hot.
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Tomato: mini charm. Well, it’s certainly very mini, and has a fair few flowers, but not fruit yet.

Main greenhouse:

J has been working on the patio in front of it, so I can walk to the greenhouse without having to put shoes on! Just need to put down a load of gravel and the messy area will look so much nicer.
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Everything is growing nicely
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Plants, from left to right.

Cucumber f1 female. No variety name given. Bought at a garden centre because the ones I tried from seed didn’t germinate. Doing amazingly. We will be overrun with cucumbers in a couple of weeks, I picked one yesterday and had half of it for dinner, and it was lovely.
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Sweet pepper. Can’t remember the variety without checking it. Not very happy. I planted 2 plants here, but their leaves started to curl within days of being in the ground, I figured it was cos the chickens had been pooping in that soil just a few months before and there was too much nitrogen or something. The first plant is soldiering on, and had a couple of flowers, but the second was killed by slugs.

Tomato. No idea what variety, just a random plant I had left in the greenhouse I stuck in to replace the dead pepper plant.

Tomato Shirley. Lots of full heavy trusses of fruit, still all green.

Tomato. I can’t remember the variety. One I grew from seed…it was the first one I planted, but it appears to be later than the others to set fruit, so I have no clues what it is.

Tomato, beefsteak heirloom type. Will need to check my seed packets for the variety. Doing very well except it fell on me the other day cos the cane broke. Fruits are still very small and green, but there are lots of them. Some of them look like crazy mutants.
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Tomato, again forgotten variety. I think it’s san marzano. Being a bit overshadowed by its neighbour, but doing ok.

Cucumber, same as the first one. Had issues when it was just planted with something eating it and making holes in the leaves, but I sprayed a couple of times with washing up liquid solution, and it killed whatever it was, and the plant is now super happy. It’s a couple of weeks behind the other in terms of cropping, but will still give lots of fruit.

Aubergine f1 moneymaker. Not as big as I’d expect, or as big as the one in J’s greenhouse (which is cooler than mine cos it is missing half a roof). Has made a couple of flowers and has more on the way, so fingers crossed I’ll get a few aubergines off it.

Tomato alicante. Doing well. Lots of trusses.
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Tomato Roma. Will soon give me the first ripe tomato of the year. About time! has lots of trusses, but not many fruit on each. Am still expecting an ok crop though, as there are still flowers on it.
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Tomato Roma. A bit behind it’s neighbour, but doing well.

Watermelon. Can’t remember variety, but it doesn’t matter anyway because stupid slugs ate it, even with a ring of eggshell around it. Next year I’m going to grow melons in pots in the other greenhouse.

Outdoor tomato bed.
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From front to back, left to right:

2 unknown varieties, both grown from seed. The second fell over in strong winds so its a bit freaky looking and won’t stay up straight, but it’s still looking ok

Shirley/moneymaker. Both doing ok, lots of fruit

Tomatoberry x2. The second one died, I think due to being knocked over in the wind and the stem breaking. The other seems ok

Supersweet/floridity, 2 rows. The floridity have tons of teeny tiny varigated plum fruits, the supersweet seem to be doing ok too.

Other beds:

Telephone peas/trail of tears beans. The peas are doing great, we’ve had a good crop from them, and they are the nicest peas I’ve ever tasted…even when the pods are overlooked and they get a bit big, they still have the lovely sweet pea taste and don’t get hard and nasty tasting. They are coming to an end now so I’m trying to resist picking any more and saving the rest for seeds. The beans are just starting to be ready now, we’ve had half a dozen so far, but the plants are still covered in flowers and tiny 1″ long beans. This is the second attempt, as the first lot were killed by an unexpected late frost.
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Random tomatoes:
I had a buttload of tomatoes left over in the greenhouse so I planted them out, way too close together cos i didnt want to take up the whole salad bed, and I’ll just see what happens.
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Courgette/asparagus:
One courgette plant ‘black beauty’, is giving soooo many courgettes, we’ve had several meals from it already and it’s still going strong. The asparagus is a mix of stuff I grew from seed last year, with 3 crowns I put in in the spring. It seems to be doing very well now it’s covered to stop the cats getting on it, and I’m looking forward to next year when I should be able to get my first crop.
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Celery ‘victoria’. Never grown celery before so I don’t know if it’s on schedule size-wise, but it seems to be doing ok.
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Cauli/sprouts.
Romanesco cauliflowers/wellington sprouts. Not a very good picture as they are covered in an anti-butterfly screen. They are growing really well in there though, at the plot we ran out of fleece and grew half our caulis under fleece and half under net, and the ones under the fleece are so much bigger, so I’ll definitely be using that technique in future.
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Artichoke/squash/currants
The artichokes (green globe) are now established enough the cats aren’t trying to dig near them, and one is starting to flower. Currants are doing ok, no flowers or fruit yet, but they were only planted this year. Squash (1 butternut and 1 something else…rolet I think) didn’t work, no idea why, they just grew a bit, very slowly, then died, equally slowly. They probably hate my shitty clay soil.
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And that’s pretty much it. Blueberries have been fruiting for months and are still going strong
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Strawberries have given a lot of fruit and have filled out the bed nicely…and if you look at the back of the pic you can see 38 more I’ve just planted from runners, which will go live at the plot once we’ve cleared space.
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I picked our november planted red onions ‘electric’ as the tops were starting to die back to nothing, we’ve had a few already, they taste good, just have to see how well they store now.
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And I picked the elephant garlic. Nom nom nom.
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We went to the plot the other day and stuff is generally doing well, but so are weeds, so we’re gonna go back one day this weekend. No doubt I’ll get tired after a few minutes of weeding, so I’ll do the same there and start making notes about what we grew, what worked out, and what got eaten by asshole slugs and squirrels.

May 11th, 2012

May update

Not been doing a whole lot cos i’ve been ill and the weather has been crap, but it’s ok because the garden has been doing things all by itself. Here are a gazillion pics of all the things growing.

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cherry tree planted last autumn

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raspberries happy in their new bed

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Blackcurrants

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Globe artichokes

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Asparagus (and weeds!), most plants started from seed last year, plus 2 crowns planted this year

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Red onions and one elephant garlic

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Climbing (telephone) peas

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Rocket, carrots (just coming through) and radish

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2 of the blueberry bushes

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The one bit of the garden that actually looks pretty

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Crazy mixed leaves in the greenhouse. I need to eat more salad!

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Perennials to be planted out, weeds :( and a tomato plant…moneymaker i think

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Sunflowers

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Silver birch has nice leaves on, and the lawn needs mowing badly.

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Acer and dragon lily

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Strawberries, from runners taken from my parents last autumn, and 2 honeyberries at the front waiting to climb the arch

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We dug in some spent colonised straw and a bit of new straw into the soil in the greenhouse, and it worked! oyster mushrooms, yay!

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Kiwi plants

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more telephone peas, long overdue for planting out

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even more telephone peas, these are for the plot

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stocks and perennial cornflower

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‘trail of tears’ climbing french beans, and a few caulis hiding at the back

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Tomatoes (i think these are costoluto) and morning glory

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Dwarf french beans ‘saxa’ on the left, climbing beans ‘trail of tears’ centre and right

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Globe artichoke ‘green globe’ at the front, tomato ‘san marzano’ centre, 2 watermelons, 2 butternut squash and 1 aubergine at the back

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more telephone peas for the plot at the front, romanesco caulis in the middle, and one lonely morning glory at the back (the others are already in bigger pots)

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Giant pumpkin at the front, middle right is a tray of mixed squashes and 3 courgettes which haven’t germinated yet, back right is more romanesco caulis, left is asters and busy lizzies

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cucumbers! and in the prop are 2 types of cherry tomato, and aubergines

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french marigolds

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What I discovered behind the compost heap yesterday. Goddamn polly.

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All cleaned up!

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I wanted greenhouse staging but couldn’t afford it, so this is the results of an afternoon’s work and some old timber I’d collected, plus a pallet that I couldn’t dismantle, but gren did it for me.

I got bored of pics at this point, but I also have indoors/in the other greenhouse sweet peppers, 3 or 4 types of chilli, physalis, passionflowers, 2 more types of tomato, asparagus, basil, oregano, swede, turnip, purple sprouting broccoli and 2 types of sweetcorn. And probably more things I’ve forgotten.

March 27th, 2012

My week (and a bit more) in pictures

I just realised that I’ve done a gazillion things in the garden that I’ve meant to blog about and didn’t, so I’m just going to put it all in here in one ginormous update.

A while ago, Thompson & Morgan had a special offer of ‘buy 20 perennials for £10’, so i figured I’d go for it, as the flower beds have been rather neglected in favour of the veggie patch. Other than edible things, the only plants I care about in the garden are an acer, a corkscrew hazel, a couple of ferns, a honeysuckle, and a climbing rose. Oh, and something I don’t know the name of, and a couple of geraniums and other things my mum gave me that I dunno what they are called. Given that I have a reasonable amount of bed space, I figured 20 new plants would fill the gaps nicely and make the garden pretty and hopefully cover more ground and stop the weeds. The plants arrived the other day, and this is what I got.

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I looked at the names and descriptions, and realised I only knew what a few of them actually were, so GIS to the rescue. This is what they will turn out like! The only one I’m not sure what to do with is the red hot poker…they are a bit 1970’s for me, and they get biiiiig. I’ll either give it away, or hide it at the back somewhere.

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Theeeen (and this pic is from ages ago, but never mind), I’ve been playing with my new saw. A LOT. I love it so much, it makes jobs that I’d not have been able to manage in the past sooooo easy.

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On that occasion I built a raised bed for J’s greenhouse.

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Then a couple of weeks later we built another bed for the side of my house to cover the sloping area.
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And he very kindly filled it with soil for me.
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Theeeeen last weekend, the internet was BAD. It was all ‘hey vampy, you know you want a conservatory but don’t have the gazillion pounds they cost? Well how about a secondhand lean-to greenhouse, you can pretend that is a conservatory, right?’. And I was all ‘DAMN YOU INTERNET, you know me too well!’. So I bought it, and after a rather scary (and possibly illegal) journey with bits of greenhouse sticking out the car window, we got it home, with the greenhouse, the car, and us, all in one piece. With Gren’s help, I got the frame up.

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Then I had to go buy timber to attach it to the wall, and my awesome woodyard also gave me some old flashing tape they had arrive damaged, cos I didn’t wanna pay £13 for 30m of the stuff when I only needed 4m. And with more gren help…there is wood attached to my house!

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And a greenhouse attached to the wood, and glass in the greenhouse!!
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This is what I see when I open the back door. A pretty area to sit in, and a place for the seedlings that were previously taking over the dining room.
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And littlecat loooves it in there, cos it gets really warm and sunny in the evenings, and I love it in there cos YAY GREENHOUSE.

A while ago I decided I wanted an archway over the steps in the garden, so the honeysuckle and rose have something to climb up and don’t attack you when you walk past, and so I don’t have to cut them QUITE as far back every year. I asked the internet, and it was all ‘hahahaha, you can get one for £150 if you’re lucky, oh, but by the way, it won’t actually fit over your steps’. So I looked at timber on the B&Q website, and they wanted around £50 for it. So I asked my favourite local woodyard. £15 for the timber and screws. Score. AND I GET TO USE MY NEW SAW AGAIN WOOHOO. So I borrowed gren’s car cos it’s bigger than mine, and went and picked up the timber when I got the stuff for fixing the greenhouse to the wall. And I built an arch. And it took less than 2 hours, even including the gazillion breaks I need to take when I’m doing anything more strenuous than sitting down.

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Of course, I didn’t exactly consider that it needed to be 5′ wide to fit the gap, and I’m 5’3 tall, meaning my arm span is about 5’3 too. So there is no way I can move an archway that is 8′ tall and 5′ wide. But again, it was Gren to the rescue, we moved it into place, marked where the holes needed to be, and had some fun hitting a bit of wood with a sledgehammer to make the holes, then put the archway in place. And it fit! And it looked awesome! And it only cost £15!!!!

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And now for other random stuff. We moved the manky sofa off the patio so the greenhouse would fit. It really needs to go to the tip, but even with gren’s help I have trouble lifting it more than a few metres, and there’s no way we could get it in the car. We considered cutting it in half with a chainsaw, but that would be messy and I can’t really lift the chainsaw, and gren drinks too much beer to be able to safely operate dangerous tools, so we decided to leave it in front of the veggie area, as there’s a patch there that is always in the shade so not suitable for growing things in, and I had been considering putting seating there at some point, because I do like to be able to sit out of the sun.

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As you can see, I’ve put down anti-weed plastic around the area and started to cover it with gravel. I have another 2 bags of gravel that will be put down once a strong man moves them for me, then after that I’ll have to save up to get another ton or so delivered so the entire area can be gravelled, with a few paving stones for easy access to the greenhouse and chicken area.

I love my manky sofa though, it’s nice for relaxing on in the shade.
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And just perfect for taking myspace style photos (ok, so I took the tablet into the garden for the first time, and was having lots of fun internetting and taking stupid pics of myself).
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I also put in some bricks to mark the edge of the flower bed, and widened it a little so there’s room for my perennials, and planted some primroses and catmint my dad bought me. Mummycat looooves the catmint, and has been rolling around on it a lot…I made a little cage from chicken wire to cover it so she can’t completely kill it. I hope.

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Aaaaand that is pretty much all I’ve done since I last updated. The rest of the time I’ve been sleeeeping. Apparently my need to sleep 12 hours a day turns into a need to sleep for at least 15 hours a day when I’m being active. And I’m sure my body will have its revenge in a few weeks, but I’m trying to both make the most of the sun and not overdo things….I still have a huge list of garden stuff that needs to be done, so hopefully the good weather and my relatively ok body will last.

OH! and!!! J’s plot! We spent a few days down there a couple of weeks ago. It started like this:

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I did strimming and planting, and he did digging until it ended up like this:
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We found a flying spaghetti monster:
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And planned where we are going to plant ALL THE THINGS. The areas with grey backgrounds are already planted, the areas with white are just planned.

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March 6th, 2012

March is when things start to get busy

Or, at least, they do when it’s not raining outside. We’ve had a few lovely days, then the last couple of days have been really horrible. Still, at least the waterbutt will get filled.

On Saturday we got to do some work in the garden, J dug some beds for me and I pruned the ivy and did various other non-physical tasks. And now the garden is looking sooo nice.

Here’s my new beds!
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And here’s the main veggie area with one new bed and one relocated bed.
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Here’s the greenhouse. Radish, spinach and mixed leaves planted in the ground, rocket and mixed leaves in the trough, and pots of sunflowers, moneymaker tomatoes, parsley, coriander, and onions. My windowsill has aubergines, black cherry tomatoes, sweet and chilli peppers, and more herbs, which will be relocated to the greenhouse soon to free up space for more planting indoors.
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When I work in the greenhouse, I often have spectators. They are most upset that they can’t get in to steal all my worms.
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And finally, mushrooms grow SO FAST. This is either 2 or 3 days after the last pic. We chopped them up and made them into a sauce with some button mushrooms, onions, cream, parsley, and cheese, and had them with pasta, and they were lovely.
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February 28th, 2012

mmmmmmushrooms!

My mushroom growing attempt appears to have been successful. After about 48 hours in the airing cupboard, the little dots of white were larger fuzzier dots of white, and after 2 weeks all the straw was held together in a giant lump of white mushroomness.

I gave one of the smaller bags to my mum, and put the other small bag and the large bag on my windowsill, in hopes that the lower temp and bright light there would encourage fruiting. I opened the bags to allow more light and airflow. After a few days I started to worry because nothing seemed to be happening, and the top of the bags kept drying out…even though the radiators in the house aren’t on that much, it’s still fairly dry in here. So I decided to hedge my bets and try a couple of different methods. The large bag, I put in the greenhouse. It’s pretty warm in there, and pretty humid, so I figured that would help, but I wasn’t sure if it would get too cold for them at night. The small bag, I left on the windowsill, but put it in the propagator that my carnivorous plants live in, in a separate tray so it wasn’t sitting in water.

I don’t know if the moving to humid places helped, or if just waiting did the trick, but now, 9 days after taking out of the airing cupboard, I have baby mushrooms on both bags!!!

The greenhouse bag I had a look in the top, and was greeted with these:

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Cute baby mushrooms! Then I carried on working in there, and noticed this huge clump growing out the side of the bag.
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The indoor ones weren’t as big, but still growing in a few patches:
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I moved them to their own propagator as the box to keep them out of the water wasn’t giving them much growing space.
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I’m going to take some of the straw from one of the bags and mix with fresh straw, and see if i can get EVEN MORE mushroomy goodness to grow, so I can have them constantly and not have to worry about buying more spawn. Next time I might even just start them off in the prop so i can put it in the airing cupboard and just move it out with no messing around.

The greenhouse is doing well too now it’s warming up. The radish, spinach, and mixed leaves I planted the weekend before last are coming up.

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And the rocket and other salad leaves we planted in the winter are really coming into their own now. We’ve eaten a few as part of the thinning out process, and I further thinned them today and put the extras into another pot.

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I love my greenhouse so much!

February 4th, 2012

Mushroom growing attempt.

So, I decided to grow mushrooms. I’ve done it before from a kit, but kits are expensive, and limited in choice. I decided to start with oyster mushrooms cos they sounded the easiest, so I bought some spawn from ebay.

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The auction said you could use various substrates, but I decided on straw because it’s cheap and I happen to have a lot of it lying around for the chickens. I read all the info here and here, then got to work.

I didn’t want to venture into the cold dark garden, so I just grabbed the bag of straw that was in the garage. Only 530 grammes, when the auction said the spawn was enough to inoculate 850g of dry straw. But fuck, even 530g is a LOT of straw.

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I got some scissors and cut the straw into the recommended 2-4″ lengths, and shoved it in a pillowcase.

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I put the pillowcase of straw into a big pan then covered it with hot water. I was aiming for the normal pasteurisation of at least 70 degrees for at least 20 mins (to ensure the heat has penetrated right through the material), but my thermometer is broken so I just guessed.

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While it was in the pan I disinfected the sink, then lifted the pillowcase out of the water and put it in the sink to drain and cool.

A couple of hours later, it was cooled enough, so I gloved up and layered the straw with small amounts of the spawn in food bags, and squished it tightly in. Then I realised it was going to take a lot of bags with that amount of straw, so I put the remainder into a tesco bag instead. I poked some holes in the bags and put them in the airing cupboard. I need to leave them there for a couple of weeks, then hopefully I can take them out and mushrooms will magically appear. fingers crossed!

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Also in unrelated news I bought some make-up for the first time in years, partly cos i wanted sparkly eyeliner dammit, and partly cos it was £8 reduced from £30 and included mascara and eyeliner, both of which i had but really needed throwing out. And it’s pretty good, this pic was after about 4 hours of wear, and it’s still looking ok.

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