The art of garden camping

Over the bank holiday weekend I took my little boy camping for three nights … in my parents’ back garden! It was a continuation of something we’ve enjoyed a lot of this summer – the art of garden camping. Over the summer, we’ve done garden camping  to see if my three-year-old would like camping (he loved…

Making sort-of sun-dried tomatoes

We’re getting a lot of tomatoes from the greenhouse at the moment, so we’re making batches of sauce, ketchup and soup as well as eating them fresh. This week, I thought I’d have a go at making sun-dried tomatoes. I picked a dozen or so similarly sized Ailsa Craig tomatoes, chopped them in half lengthways and…

Laying slate paving slabs on top of a gabion wall

Remember my gabion wall? Well, I spent a long while wondering how best to finish it off. In the end I decided to lay slate paving slabs along the top so that the wall doubles as a seat, a place to rest our bucket barbecue and a home for my little boy’s sand pit. The…

The first blackberry and apple crumble of the year

As we walked the dog on the common near our house this morning we noticed that some of the blackberries were ripe. So the dog walk turned into a blackberrying expedition (she didn’t seem to mind too much) and we got a decent haul. Now, as everyone knows, there’s no finer crumble than blackberry and…

I’m entering the bronze (trowel) age

I’m a little late posting this week as it’s been my birthday. And that can only mean one thing: cake. Okay, two things: cake and garden-themed presents. My parents got me two things I’d been hankering after (and which will also mean I stop borrowing theirs): a pole pruner… …and a Japanese razor hoe. I…

Review: San Marzano tomatoes

I’m growing San Marzano tomatoes this year for the first time. I was a little apprehensive as I’d been warned this Italian variety might need a lot of sun to produce good results. Well, it doesn’t feel like we’ve had an amazing summer but these tasty plum tomatoes are ripening nicely in the greenhouse. They’ve…

Poll: What should I do with the last of my gooseberries?

I’ve picked the last of my gooseberries and now I need to do something with them. My three favourite options are crumble, fool and jam. But I can’t decide, so I’m just going to turn it over to you. Vote for your favourite of the three options in the poll below and I’ll make whichever…

Three reasons to love Japanese wineberries

A few years ago I bought and planted a Japanese wineberry as a bit of an experiment. If it worked out, I thought, it might be a bit of a novelty – a gimmick – but it’s been so much more than that. Here’s why I love my Japanese wineberry plant: Its fruit tastes delicious….

Laying a reinforced lawn for parking

Remember the ugly bit of garden by the side of driveway? Well, over the summer I’ve started sorting it out. It’s going to be a sort of green driveway extension – an area of reinforced lawn that slopes at the same angle of the driveway and will enable us to fit more cars in when we…

What’s your favourite summer vegetable?

High summer is my favourite time of year in the garden, with the veg I like best coming into season. And the vegetable I like best of all is one that’s really, of course, a fruit: the tomato. For me, tomatoes capture the taste of summer itself. You can eat them fresh (I like mine with…

Share your Instagram harvest highlights

I haven’t written much here about what I’ve harvested so far. I have, though, posted a few images to Instagram so I thought I’d share some of my Instagram harvest highlights here. But I’d like to see yours too. So if you’re on Instagram, let me know in the comments below this post so I can…

Staging our own sunflower Olympics

I’ve managed to get my little boy, who’s now three, into gardening. He’s got his own little gloves. He’s got his own watering can and tools. He’s even got his own raised bed. And this bed has hosted one of his favourite gardening activities so far: a sunflower-growing competition. We were following in a long…

Harvesting and drying garlic

Remember the rust-affected garlic in my parents’ veg plot? Well, the rust got worst and we decided that the plants weren’t likely to grow much more. So the other week I harvested it all. Despite the rust, there were some pretty good bulbs there, although one or two had been affected by white rot. Where the…

Planting out leeks

Last week I planted out my parents’ leeks into their veg patch. They sow their leeks in a seed tray then plant them out individually later, when there’s space. There were loads more leek seedlings than they’d need, so I just chose the healthiest, strongest looking ones – about 80 in total. Then I marked…

Homemade blackcurrant ice cream

We’ve been blessed with a bumper blackcurrant crop this year, so today my wife and my little boy made blackcurrant ice cream – following a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Cookbook. First they cooked up the fruit with a little sugar and lemon juice to make a blackcurrant coulis. Then they dissolved sugar in water…

What are your favourite garden sounds?

This year I made a resolution to try and spend more time enjoying the garden, rather than always trying to get some of the many jobs done. I don’t do it as often as I’d like but one such restful moment got me thinking about the sounds that typify the garden and the time I…

Second cropping to get more from the veg garden

As I harvest crops like early potatoes and garlic, my mind is turning to what can go into the space next – while there’s still time for it to grow this season. Alongside intercropping, second cropping is a great way to make sure you get as much as possible from whatever space you have. Doing…

Letting the front lawn go wild

In the busy summer months I like to concentrate on fruit and veg growing. I find jobs like mowing the lawn a bit of a pain. So this year I’ve really enjoyed letting the front lawn go wild. One end in particular worked really well, with some oxeye daisies I sowed a few years back…

Thinning apples to get bigger fruits

Sometimes, less is more. Thinning (removing some of the) young fruit from trees helps ensure you get big, healthy, evenly ripe fruit. Yes, you get fewer fruits but they should be better. And it helps preserve the tree’s resources too. Apples, pears, plums, peaches and nectarines all benefit from thinning. For apples, it’s best to…

When to harvest potatoes

I dug up the first of my first early potatoes (Red Duke of York) this week and I’m pretty pleased with the harvest. This is from one plant: I’ve certainly had worse, although I’ve also had better. First early potatoes are usually ready some time in June or July, second earlies in July or August, and…

Why I won’t be spraying the plum moths

Remember the plum moth trap I hung up? Well, when I checked inside it for the first time, it was already too late. It was clear that scores of moths had come, their eggs had hatched and the caterpillars were already burrowing into the fruit.   This meant that it was too late to spray the…